Istanbul, Turkey | AFP | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday urged ethnic Turks in Germany to reject its main parties in upcoming elections, prompting a sharp warning from Berlin to stop the “unprecedented” meddling.
Erdogan called on ethnic Turks to ignore Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their partners in the grand ruling coalition, the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
They should also reject the Greens, he said, branding all three parties “enemies of Turkey”.
The president’s attack — one of his strongest-ever tirades against any EU state — escalated an already intensifying diplomatic crisis between two NATO allies with longstanding historical links.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD was quick to react, condemning Erdogan’s comments as an “unprecedented act of interference”.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Twitter: “We expect foreign governments to not interfere in our internal affairs.”
Erdogan issued his call in televised comments to reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayers.
“I tell all my kinsmen in Germany… not to vote for them. Neither the Christian Democrats nor the SPD nor the Greens. They are all enemies of Turkey,” he said.
He accused the SPD and CDU of playing a game of “the more you beat up Turkey, the more votes you get” during the election campaign.
“You need to support political parties there now which do not display enmity to Turkey,” he said.
– ‘Teach a lesson’ –
Erdogan did not make it clear which German political party he would like people to support in the polls for the Bundestag on September 24.
But he said he expected voters of Turkish origin to “teach a lesson to the parties which are disrespectful to Turkey” when they cast their votes in a “struggle for honour”.
Tensions have spiralled between Germany and Turkey in recent months.
Berlin has lambasted Ankara over the magnitude of the crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup, which has seen several German citizens arrested, including journalists.
Ankara meanwhile has accused Berlin of failing to extradite suspected Kurdish militants and coup plotters who have taken refuge there.