Erdoğan's troll army preparing for Turkey's elections - Die Welt

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s so-called 'troll army' is preparing to campaign among Turks living in Germany ahead of next years’ election, German newspaper Die Welt said.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is not only using its organisational structure to influence opinion in the German-Turkish community, but a small army of the president’s supporters are also preparing online, it said. Erdoğan is counting on support from citizens in Germany, where the largest community of ethnic Turks in Europe live.

The so-called troll army includes well-known influencers from AKP online community as well as anonymous social media accounts with a wide reach, Die Welt said on Sunday.

The majority of Germany’s five million Muslims are of Turkish origin. Some 1.4 million Turks living in Germany were eligible to vote in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections in June 2018, according to Turkish Supreme Election Board figures.

Last month, Erdoğan called on all Turks living in Europe to unite under one nation and one flag, in a meeting organised by the Union of International Democrats (UID), known as the AKP’s proxy group abroad. “When Turkey properly mobilises this power, no organisation, no evil structure, no hidden or open obstacles can stand in its way,” he said. 

One of the social media accounts seeking to influence Turks abroad is "Derin AnaIiz", or “deep analysis”, on Twitter, Die Welt said. It has more than 50,000 followers.

The account publishes news about Turkish politics, videos of AKP politicians and also attacks Germany and the West, it said. Most recently, it spread the conspiracy theory that Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom controlled the Turkish political opposition. 

Behind the account is Hüseyin Ersöz, who is “acting with the best connections to Ankara”, the newspaper said. In the past, Ersöz was receiving instructions from Hasan Doğan, Erdoğan’s private secretary, it said.

UID official Adem Taflan from the German state of Baden-Württemberg, more open about his service to Erdoğan, is said to be in charge of a social media campaign by the Turkish governing coalition abroad, Die Welt said.

In October, Taflan was among the UID representatives from 26 countries attending a behind-closed-doors meeting with Erdoğan in Istanbul to discuss the AKP's strategy in Europe, it said. UID board member Tuğrul Selmanoğlu from Heilbronn was also present at the meeting, and along with Taflan, is in contact with a man known in AKP circles as "Europe's big brother;" Metin Külünk, the strategist behind Erdoğan's European election campaign, according to the newspaper.

Formerly known as The Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), the UID was evaluated as incompatible with Germany’s constitutional order, according to a report by the German domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) in 2017.  BfV has confirmed that it was spying on the group in Germany as an anti-sabotage measure.

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