Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Turks living in Germany not to vote for that country’s leading political parties in the upcoming elections, accusing them of being enemies of Turkey. Naming Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union, Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats and the Green Party, led by the country’s most prominent Turkish-German politician Cem Ozdemir, Erdogan called on Turks in Germany to “teach a lesson to those parties at the ballot box” by boycotting the vote.
Relations between Ankara and Berlin have soured since an attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016 which resulted in the arrest or dismissal of 140,000 civil servants accused of supporting Fethullah Gulen, the US-based former Imam whom Ankara blames for the failed attempt. The war of words began when Germany denied Turkish politicians permission to campaign among expat Turks in the run up to a referendum that granted Erdogan sweeping executive powers.
In response, Erdogan likened the German authorities to Nazis, in turn provoking an angry response from Berlin.
They reached a new low in February when it came to light that the Turkish secret service had been spying on hundreds of individuals and institutions in Germany that Ankara suspected of being linked to Gulen. In July, Turkey arrested a German citizen during a sweep of human rights activists. In the same month, the European Parliament voted to suspend Turkey’s 12-year long EU accession talks.
Despite growing criticism of Erdogan in European capitals over what they see as his increasingly authoritarian rule, the EU is eager to keep in place an agreement reached with Ankara last year to stem the flow of migrants passing through Turkey en route to Europe.