Ankara has denounced Vienna’s stance on the country’s upcoming constitutional referendum after Austria’s top diplomat said the Turkish president cannot hold campaign events in the Central European state.
“The participation of Turkish nationals living abroad in the election process in Turkey is a democratic necessity. This process has nothing to do with Austrian domestic politics,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement released late on Monday.
The statement added that Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz’s comments do not comply with the universal principles of democracy, decrying his approach as “irresponsible.”
“On the contrary to Kurz’s claims, what damages the integration [of Turks living in Austria] is discriminatory and divisive rhetoric to prevent Turkish nationals from using their democratic rights,” it pointed out.
Earlier on Monday, Kurz had said in a statement that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not welcome to hold rallies in Austria as this could increase friction and hinder integration there.
“We clearly reject bringing the Turkish campaign and polarization to Austria,” the foreign minister said.
He, however, stressed that the Turkish leader was still welcome to visit Vienna for bilateral talks with senior Austrian officials.
Erdogan is said to be planning to campaign in several European Union countries before the April 16 referendum on the president’s executive powers.
Late last month, the Turkish parliament approved the 18-article constitutional change, which was submitted in December. A total of 339 legislators voted in favor of the move. The number of the parliamentarians who voted against the bill was 142.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) passed the bill with the support of most MPs from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). On February 10, Erdogan approved the bill.
The proposed constitutional changes have been met with widespread protests across the country, with critics claiming that the AKP is using last year’s failed coup to expand Erdogan’s authority and crackdown on opposition.
Turkish officials say over 240 people were killed and more than 2,100 others injured following the botched July 15, 2016 putsch.
Tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed or detained as part of the post-coup crackdown.
According to a survey conducted by the official Anadolu news agency, a total of 40,832 suspects have been arrested since the coup attempt.
A total of 2,279 administrative and judicial judges, 104 members of the Appeals Court, 41 members of the Council of State, two members of the Supreme Court, and three members of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors have been arrested as part of the ongoing investigations.
Additionally, 168 army generals, 7,596 Security Directorate police officers, 17 governors, 74 deputy governors, and 69 district governors under the Interior Ministry have been detained.