Erdoğan campaigns in EU, asking voters to adopt stance against terrorism

Todays Zaman
Fecha de publicación: 
05 Oct 2015

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has long been criticized for his arguable violations of constitutional impartiality, has called for nationalism and a stance against terrorism, while implicitly asking for votes for his former party in the Nov. 1 snap election, during his campaigns in France and Belgium.

During his visit to Europe from Oct. 4-5, Erdoğan spoke to Turkish expats living in Europe at the “One Voice against Terror” campaign, held in the French city of Strasbourg on Sunday, where he called for national unity against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), describing its efforts as “a threat towards the nation's unity and integrity.” Aiming to decrease public support for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Erdoğan stated on record that, “neither the terrorist organization [PKK] nor the party that relies on it [HDP] represents my Kurdish brothers.”

In a move that contradicts Erdoğan's oppositional view towards the HDP, the majority of people in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern provinces had voted for the party in the June 7 parliamentary elections, paving the way for the HDP to surpass the election threshold with 13 percent of the total vote. After the June elections, when the HDP entered Parliament with 80 elected deputies, Erdoğan's former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) lost the majority, ending its 13-year run of single party rule.

In a political move reminiscent of the June 7 elections, when Erdoğan campaigned to elect 400 AK Party deputies to the 550-seat Parliament, the president is now focusing efforts on his first campaign in France to secure support for his former AK Party.

Erdoğan's hopes prior to the June 7 elections have shifted as he pushes his dream of constitutional change and a switch to a presidential system, aiming to take voters away from the HDP, the party which could skew his political goals by hampering his desired AK Party majority in Parliament.

In his speech at Strasbourg's Zenith Arena to around 12,000 Turks who attended, Erdoğan said, “You will bring an end to terrorism on Nov. 1; you will blow up the ballot box on Nov. 1,” implying that people should vote for the AK Party instead of the HDP in order to teach a lesson to terrorists and their supporters.

Concurrently, as Erdoğan campaigned at Zenith Arena around noon, thousands of people accompanied by 57 civil society organizations gathered at Place Kleber in Strasbourg, the capital city of France's Alsace region, for a three-hour-long protest against Erdoğan's presence in Europe. In the protest that was dubbed “You are not welcome, Erdoğan,” people held placards with mottos such as “Erdoğan, resign,” “An end to Erdoğan's dictatorship,” and “Be aware, the thief has come.”

In a statement to the public at the demonstration, German'ys Federation of Alevi Unions (AABF) Chairman Hüseyin Mat said that Erdoğan has brought chaos to both Turkey and the Middle East and is now trying to foment chaos in Europe. According to many people, Erdoğan divides both the society in Turkey and in Europe through his hate speeches and use of polarizing language.

Even though Erdoğan's speech in Strasbourg seems to indicate that he has learned from his previous experiences, urging Turks in Europe to have citizenship in their countries of residence, calling such a move “the assurance for Europe's multiculturalism,” he is in fact known for the previous speeches he made in Europe which were highly criticized by European politicians. During his time as prime minister, Erdoğan had warned Turkish communities in Europe not to lose their Turkish identity and to remain part of the Turkish Republic on different occasions, even going so far as to describe assimilation as a crime against humanity.

Later on Sunday Erdoğan left Strasbourg for Brussels to attend another campaign called “Unity, Tranquility, Love and Peace.” The campaign was organized by the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), a civil society organization founded by AK Party sympathizers in Europe.

The president delivered a strong message in Brussels, criticizing opposition parties and implicitly asking for votes from his former AK Party. Erdoğan's campaign was held at Brussels' Stephanie Square after the mayor of Brussels refused to grant permission to the UETD for the use of an 18,000-seat arena to organize the campaign. Although the Brussels' campaign paled in comparison to Strasbourg, Erdoğan's message was still strong.

He addressed the issue of Syrian refugees, emphasizing the efforts being made by Turkey, where more than 2 million refugees are being hosted, costing the country $7.5 billion so far. Erdoğan also criticized some countries where politicians previously referred to refugees as “a threat to Europe's Christian culture.” He said: “We do not discriminate among refugees in any way. We solely view them as [suffering] men and take them in.”