President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday has arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital Sarajevo on a working visit and an important election rally abroad.
Erdoğan is accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci, Minister of Youth and Sports Osman Aşkın Bak, Minister of Culture and Tourism Numan Kurtulmuş, Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communication Ahmet Arslan and Head of Religious Affairs Ali Erbaş.
During the visit, Erdoğan will hold a one-on-one meeting and inter-delegation talks with Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The president will attend the sixth general assembly of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), where Erdoğan will also stage a rally Sunday to mobilize expatriate voters in the run-up to snap elections on June 24.
The expatriate European vote is generally a source of support the AK Party and officials are keen to rouse a strong turnout in Europe.
The early election in Turkey is set to accelerate its transition to the new presidential system with full executive powers.
The event in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only rally Erdoğan is scheduled to conduct in Europe ahead of the vote.
An estimated 20,000 supporters from across Europe, half of them from Germany, are expected at the address in Sarajevo's largest sports venue Zetra, Bosnian media said, whereas the UETD said some 10,000 people are expected in the rally. Germany, with the largest diaspora, has approximately 1.4 million Turks eligible to vote in June's elections for parliament and the presidency, while the number of Turkish voters throughout Europe is more than 3 million.
Supporters are expected to arrive from the whole Europe, including Austria, Belgium, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Hungary.
Key Western European governments, including Germany, effectively blocked Erdoğan and other government official from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) from staging political events on their territory after political clashes last year for a referendum on switching to presidential system, which was accepted with 51.41 percent of the votes.
In April, Austria and the Netherlands also said they would ban any campaigning by Turkish politicians on their soil for the June elections.
A similar ban was seen as unlikely in Sarajevo, however, given that Bosnian Muslim leader Bakir Izetbegovic attended the marriage of Erdoğan's daughter in 2016.
His SDA party is seen as close to Erdoğan's AK Party which, according to Bosnian media, is planning to open a representative office in Bosnia soon.
"We will show that he (Erdoğan) has friends and that there are those who are proud of him," Izetbegovic told his supporters last week.
But the support is not unanimous. Another Facebook group of Sarajevans called on citizens of Bosnia to raise their voices "against the meeting ... and say no to Turkish foreign policy and its interference in Bosnia's politics".
Bosnian Serb leader Milord Dodik also voiced regret that the Turkish leader was "interfering a lot" in Bosnia's affairs.
Turkey has excellent relations with Bosnia and Turkish companies have played a major role in the country's reconstruction following its 1990s inter-ethnic war.
Salko Sokolovic, a former party member who broke ranks with the SDA, warned of a possible negative reaction from Germany, which is Bosnia's much stronger commercial partner, and has rather tense relations with Erdoğan. "If you push a finger in the eye with such a rally to a friend like this (Germany) there will certainly be consequences," Sokolovic said.
Half of Bosnia's 3.5 million citizens are Muslims, a third are Serbs, while Croats make some 15 percent of the population.
Erdoğan will also address students at the International University of Sarajevo, where an honorary doctorate will be awarded to the president.
During his meetings, the presidential press office said, Erdoğan will be discussing Turkey's bilateral relations with Bosnia, the recent developments in the Balkans as well as regional and international matters.
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