In an unusual intervention in Germany’s coming general election, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called on Turkish-origin Germans to give a “slap” to both parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition in September polls.
Erdogan has caused consternation in Berlin by urging ethnic Turks in Germany to vote neither for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its coalition partner the Social Democratic Party (SPD) nor the Greens in the 24 September federal polls.
Defiantly returning to the controversy for the third consecutive day, Erdogan called on ethnic Turks living in Germany not to vote for parties who are “enemies of Turkey”.
“Be with those who are friendly to Turkey. Don’t worry if it’s a small party, give them your vote. They will then grow and get bigger.”
“In my opinion, those who attack Turkey in this way need to be dealt a slap in this election,” Erdogan told ruling party activists in a televised speech in Istanbul.
He did not specify which parties the Turkish community in Germany should consider voting for.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a senior member of the SPD, had bitterly denounced Erdogan’s calls as an “unprecedented act of interference” in Germany’s sovereignty.
This prompted the Turkish president the day earlier to tell Berlin’s top diplomat to “know your limits” and question his political experience.
Minister Gabriel has reported about personal threats and harassment against his family, which are connected with the current disputes between him and Erdogan
A development that has been widely condemned across the political spectrum.
And Erdogan on Sunday brushed off the criticism that he was meddling in the elections.
The latest spat between Ankara and Berlin risks propelling a months-long crisis in ties between the two countries with deep historic links to a new level.
Berlin has lambasted Ankara over the magnitude of the crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup, which has seen several German citizens arrested, including journalists.
Ankara meanwhile has accused Berlin of failing to extradite suspected Kurdish militants and coup plotters who have sought asylum in Germany.
Analysts estimate that about 1.2 million people of Turkish origin, about 60 per cent of whom are regarded as Erdogan’s supporters, will have the right to vote in the September elections. However, the choice for Turkish voters is limited. In past general elections, majority of Turkish-origin Germans like others with a migrant background, voted for the SPD, which fields several candidates with Turkish roots in the polls. Moreover, Cem Özdemir, a national leader of the Greens, is also of Turkish origin.
Austin Ohaegbu with agency reports