March 5 (UPI) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared the cancellation of several rallies in Germany before a referendum in his nation to Nazi practices.
“Your practices are not different from the Nazi practices of the past,” Erdogan said Sunday in Istanbul at a campaign for the referendum. “I thought it’s been a long time since Germany left [Nazi practices]. We are mistaken.”
About 1.4 million Turks living in Germany are eligible to vote in the April 16 referendum that could give Erdogan new powers by switching from a parliamentary republic to a presidential one. Erdogan would control the budget, appoint ministers and judges, and gain authority to dismiss parliament.
One day earlier, Erdogan accused Germany of “aiding and harboring terror” for allowing outlawed Kurdish leaders to conduct regular public meetings in the country.
On Thursday, Turkey summoned Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Martin Erdmann, to the foreign ministry in Ankara to protest Gaggenau’s cancellation of a talk by Bekir Bozdag, Turkey’s justice minister.
Gaggenau authorities said there was insufficient space for the rally.
Authorities in Cologne canceled a rally where Nihat Zeybekci, Turkey’s economy minister, was scheduled to speak.
Also, a rally in Frechen was called off.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government wasn’t involved in canceling the rallies, saying the decisions were “taken by municipalities, and as a matter of principle, we apply freedom of expression in Germany.”
In Austria, the chancellor has called for a European Union-wide ban on political campaigning by Turkish politicians.
“A collective EU response to prevent such campaign events would make sense so that individual countries like Germany where appearances are forbidden don’t end up being pressured by Turkey,” Christian Kern told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
He also said Turkey’s attempts to join the EU should be abandoned because the country has been “trampling on human rights and basic democratic rights.”
Erdogan has cracked down on his opponents since a failed military coup last year.