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.
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.
Erdoğan compared the decision to “Nazi practices”, which in turn sparked heated reactions in Germany.
EU sources told euractiv.com 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.
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.
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.
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.