EU summit to discuss Turkish electoral activism in member states

Wooing the Turkish diaspora: Erdogan, with wife Emine, in Strasbourg in 2015. [Reuters]

The EU lacks rules regulating the organisaiton of elections by third countries on its territory. Recent Turkish campaign attempts in Germany, Austria and other countries will be one of the issues to be discussed at the 9-10 March summit.

Turkish citizens will vote on 16 April on whether to give President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sweeping new powers, including the right to make decrees, declare emergency rule and dissolve parliament in times of crisis.

Ankara is wooing voters in several EU countries, including Germany’s three-million-strong Turkish population – the largest outside Turkey – to support expanding Erdoğan’s powers.

New Turkey reform could see Erdogan stay in power until 2029

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has approved a constitutional reform bill that would vastly strengthen the powers of his office and a referendum on the issue is likely on 16 April, officials said today (10 February).

Turkish campaigning has raised eyebrows in several EU capitals. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said Turkish politicians should be banned from political campaigning across the EU, supporting the decision by some German towns to cancel Turkish referendum campaign events.

Austria calls for EU-wide ban on Turkish campaign events

Turkish politicians should be banned from political campaigning across the European Union, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said on Sunday (5 March), supporting the decision by some German towns last week to cancel Turkish referendum campaign events.

Erdoğan compared the decision to “Nazi practices”, which in turn sparked heated reactions in Germany.

Merkel rejects Erdogan's ‘absurd’ Nazi comparison, calls for calm

Germany rejected as “absurd” yesterday (6 March) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comparison of its ban on several rallies to the Nazi era, but it also stressed the importance of ties between the two NATO allies in an attempt to defuse an escalating war of words.

EU sources told that “Turkish election activism” would be discussed by EU leaders at their summit beginning on Thursday.

This is not the first time that Erdoğan has tried to mobilise the Turkish diaspora.

Erdogan brings Turkish election campaign to Strasbourg, Brussels

Supporters and foes gathered in Strasbourg on Sunday (4 October) on the occasion of a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, who has apparently turned his European tour into part of his election campaign.

Turkey’s political activism relates not only to the diaspora of “guest workers” in Western Europe, but to ethnic Turks in Bulgaria, a country with a sizeable population of ethnic Turks, originating from the Ottoman era.

Bulgaria will hold early parliamentary elections on 26 March and Ankara is openly campaigning for one of the political parties.

Bulgarian elections explained by political dark horse

Bulgarians will vote on 26 March in snap general elections. Euractiv explains the elections with the help of one of the leaders who hopes his party will be able to pass the 4% threshold and win MP seats in the 240-member National Assembly.

A new political party ‘DOST’ (‘friend’ in Turkish), was recently set up, led by Lyutvi Mestan, former leader of the DPS party (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) which historically represented ethnic Turks in Bulgaria.

Mestan left DPS under unclear circumstances last December and sought refuge in the Turkish embassy in Sofia.

Bulgarian politician dumped for siding with Turkey

The leader of Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish party has been ousted from his post and expelled from the party yesterday (24 December), officially for declaring support for Turkey in its row with Moscow over the downing of a Russian warplane.

Later, Mestan set up DOST with support from Ankara.

As the Bulgarian press reports, Turkish ministers openly urge Turkish nationals with Bulgarian citizenship to vote for the party in the neighbouring country. Turkey’s Minister of Labour, Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, promised Turkish dual nationals with irregular documents that they will not be fined upon their return if they go to Bulgaria to vote.

“We must support DOST so that our nationals will have better prospects there,” Müezzinoğlu is quoted as saying by Bulgarian daily SEGA.

Unlike DOST, the DPS has always kept its distance from Ankara.

The Bulgarian foreign ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador yesterday (7 March) to protest against interference in the election.

The Council for Electronic Media, a public body monitoring radio and television broadcasts, seized the electoral commission for DOST’s electoral videos in which the Turkish himself ambassador appears.

Ethnic parties are prohibited by the Bulgarian constitution, but the country’s political establishment has avoided controversy over the political representation of ethnic Turks.

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