President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Saturday (21 April) criticised Austria for planning to ban any possible campaigning for the June elections, saying that countries attempting to undermine his country’s democratic struggle would “pay a price”.
Erdogan this week called snap elections for 24 June, bringing the polls forward by a year and a half.
Both Austria and the Netherlands have announced their governments would not look warmly to any possible campaigning on their soil by Turkish politicians.
In an interview with private NTV broadcaster, Erdogan took aim at Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz who said Friday campaign events would “not be welcome” and would not be allowed.
Erdogan said the steps taken by Kurz would “entirely turn against him.”
“Turkey’s struggle for democracy cannot be easily restricted,” he said.
The early election will accelerate the transition to a new presidential system which critics fear will lead the way for one man rule.
Kurz had told Oe1 radio Friday: “The Turkish leadership under Erdogan has for years tried to instrumentalize communities of Turkish origin in Europe; this has been the case for Erdogan’s campaign events and those of his supporters.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also said Friday campaigning in the Netherlands would be “undesirable.”
“They are Turkish elections, so the campaign should remain in Turkey,” he said, warning that any campaigning by Turkish politicians could cause public disorder in the Netherlands.
Erdogan said he would address Turkish origin voters in a European country without elaborating further.
“We have finalized our preparations abroad. I will not publicise the country now but God willing, I will address a crowd of 10-11,000 at a meeting of an international organization,” he added.
Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik also blasted the prime ministers of Austria and the Netherlands, saying they were “not leaning on democratic values”.
“With this approach, Austria and Holland are poisoning democratic values in their own countries. By doing so, they are helping spread of racist political movements hostile to European Union values,” he wrote on Twitter Saturday.
Last year, Turkey’s relations with some of the EU member states including Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, took a strained turn after they banned rallies ahead of a constitutional referendum won by Erdogan.