Austria, Germany signal hostility toward Turkish politicians ahead of elections

DAILY SABAH WITH REUTERS
ISTANBUL
Published 21.04.2018 00:00

Austria and Germany have returned to their hostile attitude towards Turkish politicians once again as the presidential and parliamentary elections in June are approaching, aiming to prevent them from connecting with the Turkish diaspora living there by banning election campaigns in their countries.

Austria's right-wing coalition government, which is strongly opposed to Turkey joining the European Union, will bar Turkish politicians from campaigning on its territory ahead of the June elections in Turkey, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday.

"[Turkish president] Erdoğan's Turkish leadership has been trying to exploit Europe's communities of Turkish origin for many years," Kurz told ORF radio in broadcast remarks. "Turkish election campaign appearances in Austria are unwanted, and we will therefore no longer allow them," he added. The previous chancellor, Christian Kern, a Social Democrat, said last year that he would try to prohibit any campaign appearances by Turkish ministers. A law has since been passed giving the government greater powers to ban foreign political gatherings. Kurz's conservatives are in a coalition government with the anti-Islam Freedom Party, making Austria the only Western European country to have a far-right party in government. Both parties believe the EU should break off Turkish accession talks.

When asked if Austria would prevent campaign events by all Turkish political parties, however, Kurz said it would.

Although it never went as far as to ban political campaigns like Austria, Germany has already started to discuss its own attitude toward Turkish politicians.

The General Secretariat of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said that the election campaigns of Turkish political parties should not spread to Germany. Speaking to German Press Agency (DPA), Kramp-Karrenbauer stated that the struggle over the upcoming elections in Turkey should be done in Turkey, not in Germany. "We do not want Turkey's domestic politics in our cities, making it harder to live together," he added. This is not the first time that the two countries' governments expressed hostility toward Turkish politicians. Far-right and populist parties in Germany and Austria increased their anti-Turkey rhetoric during the campaign for the April 16 referendum last year to make constitutional changes and campaigned to ban rallies by Turkish politicians amid claims they undermine integration and endangering social harmony.

Germany's Green Party co-chair Cem Özdemir, on the other hand, said that the German government should not leave the local administrations alone in making a decision over Turkish politicians' having election campaigns in Germany. "We need a regulation [to prevent Turkish political campaigns in Germany] that include the whole country," Özdemir asserted. Earlier in March 2017, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci were prevented from holding referendum meetings in Germany, while various towns and local administrations imposed similar bans on "yes" campaign meetings, including those of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), which is registered in Germany.

Ankara has sharply condemned these obstructions, comparing them to the practices of fascist regimes during World War II and also accused these governments of taking sides in Turkey's referendum by favoring the "No" campaign. The "no" campaign meetings did not face any obstructions, as various German politicians and media outlets openly declared their support for the "no" camp.

Throughout the campaign, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) were criticized by European media outlets at an unprecedented rate, using derogatory rhetoric. This led to a bitter war of words between Turkish and German officials.

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