As Turkey prepares for an April 16 referendum on a constitutional overhaul that would hand more power to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish expatriates are pushing back. Germany and the Netherlands–home to sizable Turkish minorities–have blocked pro-Erdogan rallies, triggering a sharp response from the Turkish leader. Here’s what’s driving the controversy.
The row began on March 2, when German authorities decided to call off a speech due to be given by Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag. Weeks later, the Netherlands barred Turkish ministers from attending a rally in Rotterdam, sparking condemnation from Erdogan, who accused the two countries of Nazi-like behavior.
For his domestic audience, the confrontation casts Erdogan in one of his favorite roles: that of the underdog. His spokesman slammed the Netherlands for “succumbing to anti-Islam racists,” as the government sought to stir nationalist sentiments ahead of the referendum.
With recent polls showing a narrowly contested campaign, the rhetoric reflects the high-stakes battle over the referendum. A yes vote will scrap the current parliamentary system of government and replace it with one dominated by a powerful presidency, bolstering Erdogan’s already considerable authority. For his critics, the vote is their last chance to avoid an expanded clampdown on dissent that began following a failed military coup attempt in July 2016.
This appears in the March 27, 2017 issue of TIME.
- Zero-COVID Protests in China Have Rattled Global Markets
- Column: Diversity Initiatives Are Failing the U.S. Muslim Community
- Why European Countries Are Giving Teens Free Money To Spend on Books, Music, and Theater
- Republican Skepticism of Trump Has Never Been Higher
- Column: The U.S. Prison System Doesn't Value True Justice
- How Green Is the Qatar World Cup’s Outdoor AC?
- 16 Funny and Whimsical White Elephant Gifts Under $25
- The 5 Best New TV Shows Our Critic Watched in November 2022