Turkey's Erdogan Stakes EU Relations on Referendum Victory
March 16, 2017
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has provoked a diplomatic crisis with Europe as he campaigns overseas to whip up support among expatriate Turks for a controversial constitutional referendum to expand the powers of his office. The referendum is being held on 16 April; it seeks to modernize Turkey’s current constitution, which was drawn up after the military coup of 1980 on the orders of Turkey’s once-omnipotent military. The race has become increasingly tight for modern Turkey’s mightiest politician, who inspires reverence on one half of Turkey’s political spectrum and intense hatred on the other.
The latest confrontation with Europe comes after two of the president’s ministers were prevented from addressing rallies in Holland out of fear of importing Turkey’s political divisions into the Turkish minority community. The choleric and highly nationalist President Erdogan, who still resents the slowness with which many EU states responded to the attempted coup against his government last summer, seized the opportunity to spark a politically convenient row with those European states who banned the rallies. The incendiary rhetoric used by the Turkish president is likely by design, as it will help to mobilize his base when Turks go to the polls next month.