President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he will hold a rally with overseas voters in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, after a number of European countries barred Turkish politicians from staging pre-election campaign rallies on their soil.
“In an environment where some countries are debating whether to allow us to campaign, we prefer to come together with our citizens in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We will come together with our citizens from European countries in a hall in Bosnia,” Erdoğan told reporters abroad his flight returning from South Korea on May 3.
“On the other hand, our citizens will certainly also continue their campaigning in the other countries where they are living in Europe,” he said.
The Sarajevo rally is expected to be held on May 20 but no official announcement has yet been made.
Turkey will go to early parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24, a year-and-a-half ahead of schedule.
Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have all announced that they will not allow Turkish politicians to conduct pre-election campaigning in their territories, citing public order concerns.
Ties between Ankara and a number of European countries were hit in 2017 ahead of the controversial April 2017 referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system, with many Turkish politicians not permitted to hold pre-scheduled meetings. The Netherlands deported one Turkish minister on the grounds that she had not sought permission from the authorities, prompting Erdoğan to denounce “Nazi-like” tactics.
Western media reports
Erdoğan said bans on Turkish politicians from campaigning are “not democratic.”
“In fact we have never hesitated to congratulate the leaders who win elections in European countries. Because we want good relations and we want to open a new page with them,” he added.
Erdoğan also blasted Western media coverage, decrying what he called “not a new trend.”
“We have seen these things before previous elections too in June and November 2015. We have never paid attention to these,” he said.
AKP to highlight ‘freedoms’ in campaigning
“Our election manifesto for June 24 is ready. I will announce it on Sunday [May 6]. June 24 will mark a new era for Turkey. I don’t know about the objectives of other leaders but ours is a very great one. We are determined to achieve a stronger, richer and freer Turkey,” he said.
The AKP will hold a big rally in Istanbul on May 6 to announce its election manifesto and to officially launch its pre-election campaign. Erdoğan will be running for the presidency as the joint candidate of the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) under the “People’s Alliance.”
Four major opposition parties recently decided to come together in the elections in a bid to increase their representation at parliament by bypassing the 10 percent national threshold. Erdoğan criticized the opposition alliance, accusing the parties of “not exerting efforts for the wellbeing of Turkey.”
“They are not working to positively contribute to the country. The fact that they failed to decide on a joint presidential candidate is clear evidence of their incompetence. Our people will not fall into their trap,” he said.
“They will not be able to get the result they want in the parliamentary elections. Opinion polling shows this. Polls show that the People’s Alliance is far ahead,” he added.
‘Let me not talk about Gül’
Among the key debates in recent weeks was the potential nomination of Abdullah Gül, one of the founders of the AKP and a former president, from the ranks of the opposition parties against Erdoğan. Questioned about debates on Gül, Erdoğan was reluctant to comment on the issue.
“Let me not speak about it. I don’t need to make any statement on this issue. Everyone knows perfectly well what’s going on,” he said.
After fevered speculation about his potential candidacy, Gül announced on April 28 that he would not be running for the presidency, citing the lack of opposition compromise on his candidacy.