Just over a month before elections in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked Turks abroad for mass support.
“Are you ready to give an Ottoman slap in the face to terrorist organizations and their local and foreign stooges?” Erdogan told thousands of cheering Turks abroad in Sarajevo, Bosnia. “Are you ready to support me with a record number of votes in the presidential election?”In the presidential and parliamentary elections on 24. June is about a decision “for the next century of our country”, he said.
According to the Union of Turkish-European Democrats (UETD), more than 10,000 Turks from abroad had traveled to Sarajevo, about half of them from Germany. The UETD had organized Erdogan’s only planned campaign appearance in other European countries to date. Erdogan said: “Are you ready to demonstrate the strength of European Turks to the whole world??He called on Turks abroad to “give an answer from Germany, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands that can be heard all over Europe”.”
Erdogan called on his supporters abroad to extend their influence there. “By all means, accept the citizenship of the countries you live in,” he said. “I ask you to take an active role in the political parties in the countries where you live. You should be a part of these parliaments, not those who betray their country.”Erdogan has in the past attacked members of the Bundestag of Turkish origin, such as Green Party politician Cem ozdemir, who criticize his policies.
Addressing Turks abroad, Erdogan said, “Protect your religion and your language very well. If you lose it, you will be lost.”The votes of Turks abroad carry considerable weight in Turkey’s elections. Nearly three million Turks abroad were registered to vote in last year’s constitutional referendum, representing about five percent of all eligible Turkish voters. The largest group was formed by the 1.4 million Turks eligible to vote in Germany.
Erdogan’s election campaign appearance in Sarajevo led to fierce dispute in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He learned about the election event only from the media, Dragan Covic, a Croatian member of the three-member state presidency, told Zagreb TV station HRT on Sunday. The visit inflicts great strategic damage on the small Balkan country striving to join the EU. Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands had been campaigning for the referendum to be held on 24. June planned Turkish parliamentary and presidential elections banned.
Turkey had organized Erdogan’s appearance, scheduled for Sunday, through Bakir Izetbegovic, a Muslim member of Bosnia’s presidency of the state. Izetbegovic, who describes himself as a close friend of the Turkish president, had praised Turkey the previous day as an investor and ally. In contrast, the second most important Muslim leader Fahrudin Radoncic criticized the election campaign in Sarajevo on TV channel N1. Erdogan was interested in “a demonstration for Western Europe: Look, here in the Balkans I can be”.
Last spring, planned campaign appearances by Turkish government representatives in Germany before the constitutional referendum in Turkey had led to a fierce dispute between Berlin and Ankara. Erdogan had accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of “Nazi methods” over prevented appearances. Then, last June, the federal government issued a blanket ban on foreign officials from non-EU countries from appearing in their countries for three months before an election.
Erdogan’s AKP recently criticized German authorities for enforcing the ban only on it, but not on Turkish opposition parties, in the current election campaign. AKP deputy Mustafa Yeneroglu said: “With this, the German government makes itself a party in the election campaign of a foreign state.”
Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled to take place on 24. June to be held simultaneously for the first time. The move is intended to complete the introduction of the presidential system sought by Erdogan and approved by a narrow majority in the constitutional referendum.
Erdogan appeared in Sarajevo at a congress of the UETD. The UETD, which is mainly active in Germany, is regarded as an AKP lobby organization and has organized controversial appearances by Erdogan in Germany in the past.