Monday, March 13, 2017

France under fire for authorising Turkish campaign event

France’s government came under fierce criticism on Sunday for allowing Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to campaign in the northeastern city of Metz amid tensions with Europe ahead of next month’s referendum on a new Turkish constitution.

Cavusoglu campaigned in support of a “yes” vote in Turkey’s April 16 referendum at a gathering organised by the local Turkish community in Metz. If passed, the new constitution would expand Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

The event came a day after the Netherlands barred Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from attending a similar event in Rotterdam, prompting Erdogan and Cavusoglu to accuse the Dutch government of “fascism”.

Turkey’s push to woo foreign voters has run into problems elsewhere in Europe. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen postponed a scheduled visit with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim over the weekend in light of the “current Turkish attack on Holland”. Meanwhile, Austria and Switzerland have both made it clear that Turkey was not welcome to campaign within their borders.

The French government’s decision to allow the meeting in Metz was met with immediate criticism from politicians, who accused the government of failing to show solidarity with the rest of Europe.

“It’s obvious that there should have been a united stance on handling Turkey’s demands. The French government could have prevented this meeting from taking place,” conservative presidential hopeful François Fillon said.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen echoed Fillon’s comments. “Why should we tolerate rhetoric that other democracies have rejected on our soil? No Turkish electoral campaign in France,” she posted on Twitter.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron also spoke out against the rally in Metz. “Our country shouldn’t accept any provocation or attack against our democracy, our allies [or] our values on its soil,” he said.

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