Testing the limits
A new crisis with Europe is brewing. European countries have been announcing one after another that they have no intention of allowing Turkish politicians to stage political campaign events on their territories. Those statements, however, appear to fall on deaf ears in Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced his intention of holding a closed-door election campaign event in a European country. Which one? He has not disclosed…
Could it be Germany, where there is a potential Turkish electorate well over three million? Germany has said very clearly that if there was less than three months before elections in a country, under its own laws, any sort of political gathering on German soil by politicians of that country might be possible. Was this a clear statement? Apparently not for Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas must have panicked with Erdoğan’s statement, as he immediately made a rather clearer explanation of the issue, stressing Germany would not allow foreign politicians to conduct political activities on German soil in any way.
The country among the European allies whose resolute decision for a “political ban” Erdoğan has decided to test could not be Austria, Denmark, or the Netherlands either. He cannot travel to Greek-Cypriot administered Cyprus. One might think Britain is on the way out of the EU and might be more receptive to Erdoğan but that would be wrong as well, as so far the United Kingdom never allowed its territory to be used in election campaigns by foreign countries. Besides, most of the Turkish presence in Britain are Turkish Cypriots and like their compatriots back home, would most likely not be receptive to Erdoğan’s rather unusual polarization-centered campaign tactics.
It could not be Belgium either. What more can the Belgian authorities do in order to explain themselves that they have no intention of seeing Turkey’s problems poured into the streets of Brussels?
Anyhow, did the European Convention on Human Rights not clearly stress in articles 10, 11, 12, 14, and 16 that European governments have the right to limit the rights and liberties underlined in the convention for foreign political activity on their territory? Why do Turkish politicians not want to examine how Europeans have so far failed to conduct Europe-wide political campaigns for the European Parliament? Why is it that elections for European Parliament are held according to the local election laws of every member country, but Europe has so far been unable to even produce a common election law for their common parliamentary organ?
Obviously, a country has the sovereign right to accept or deny permission for another country to have campaign events on its soil. No one with the slightest understanding of countries’ sovereign rights and relevant international conventions can hide behind glossy “freedom of information” slogans and demand a special status. Particularly if freedom of information and press freedom have been so problematic in that country and even the fundamental right to demonstrate—which under international law cannot be subject to the condition of “obtaining prior permission”—has been constrained under emergency law powers. How could it be possible to speak of special status?
Furthermore, even the Turkish election law prohibits Turkish politicians from having electoral campaigns of all sorts in foreign countries. Was it not because of that ban, which has been reiterated many times by the electoral board, that all foreign political campaigns were being disguised under a vague veil as a “political event”?
Aware that polarization has been helping him score election victories, Turkey’s ruler must prepare for a showdown with Europe again. Of course, he needs to revive nationalist sentiments…