German Lawmakers Recognize Armenian Genocide

02 June, 2016

German lawmakers voted Thursday to recognize as genocide the century-old killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

Germany joined about 20 other countries that recognize the killings as genocide.

Historians estimate that the Ottoman Turks killed as many as 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1917. Armenia has long sought international recognition of the event as genocide.

Renowned Hollywood actor George Clooney takes a group photo with women during his visit to attend global forum of
Renowned Hollywood actor George Clooney takes a group photo with women during his visit to attend global forum of "Against the Crime of Genocide" in Armenia in late April 2016. (Photo supplied by Youk Chhang)

Turkey has confirmed that thousands of Armenians died during World War I. But the Turkish government has denied that the killings represented a campaign of genocide.

The Turkish government ordered Germany's top diplomat go to the foreign ministry in Ankara after the German parliament's vote.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the vote. "The resolution adopted by the German parliament will seriously impact relations between Germany and Turkey," he said.

Erdogan spoke to reporters during a visit to Kenya.

Women Seeks to Shake Up Turkish Politics

The Turkish president is seeking to extend his powers. He can reach that goal two ways. He can call and win a special nationwide election. Or a two-thirds majority in parliament can approve the extension. Political observers say either way is dependent on a weakening of Turkey's Nationalist Action Party, or MHP.

Former interior minister Meral Aksener is seeking to lead the party. She also is increasingly seen as the biggest threat to the president and his efforts to change the constitution.

Recently, large crowds gathered to see Aksener during her visit to Turkey's Black Sea area. The area is a center of Turkish nationalism. The MHP once had a strong following there. However, the ruling AKP has taken votes from the MHP in recent elections.

The MHP's support collapsed in general elections last November. The party lost half its seats and won just enough to enter parliament. Many of its supporters voted instead for the AKP. This helped the ruling party gain a large majority.

Aksenser served in the government in the 1990s. Atilla Yesilada says that makes Aksener a possible threat to President Erdogan and the AKP. Yesilada is a Turkey politics expert with Global Source Partners.

"The real threat to Erdogan is going to come from the center-right. And Meral Aksener has very strong center-right credentials. She was interior minister. You know, she was there when the army and security forces purged the PKK from Turkey, so she is a very tough woman. And journalists who follow her trail in Anatolia report huge interest; huge convoys are greeting her wherever she goes; I mean, we are talking 400, 450 vehicles."

Disagreement Among MHP's Membership

Aksenser is hoping to replace Devlet Bahceli as the MHP's chief. The current MHP leadership has gone to court to block her from calling an emergency party conference.

Observers say there are reports that Erdogan was responsible for a series of legal delays. Turkey's highest administrative court finally ruled the conference must be held.

Kadri Gursel writes opinion pieces for Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper and Al-Monitor website. He says the party meeting could have a far-reaching effect on Turkish politics.

"According to surveys, if Aksener replaces Devlet Bahceli in MHP, she will push MHP public support to unprecedented levels, (and) also make it impossible (for) Erdogan to realize his dreams of becoming a constitutional dictator or to have his (two-thirds) parliamentary majority in a snap election anytime soon. That is why Erdogan will prevent Aksener (from) becoming MHP leader for any cost."

Political watchers say an Aksener-led MHP could offer Turkish voters a conservative alternative to the AKP.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Dorian Jones reported on this story for VOANews. George Grow adapted his story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

impact - n. a powerful influence or effect

purged – v. removed; ousted

journalist – n. a news reporter

convoy – n. a group of vehicles

survey – n. a public opinion study

alternative n. something that can be chosen instead of something else; a choice