Erdogan's Perfect Storm Netherlands Dispute Gives Turkey Perfect Election Fodder

Ankara is piling on in its dispute with the Netherlands after the country refused to allow key government members to hold political rallies in the country over the weekend. Turkey is calling for retaliation in the "harshest ways" and President Erdogan has found the perfect election issue.

A Turkish flag hangs from the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul
CEM TURKEL/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

A Turkish flag hangs from the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul

By in Istanbul


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it seemed, had run out of stories to tell. He had retold the legend of his rise from the very bottom of society to the political pinnacle, and of his energetic battle against his country's enemies, so often that his referendum campaign had long felt like a repeat of earlier elections.

Turkish voters are slated to cast ballots on April 16 on the introduction of a presidential system that would transfer virtually all power in the country to the president. But Erdogan has had a tough time persuading voters of the need for these reforms.

Now, though, it is the Europeans, of all people who are feeding Erdogan the arguments he needs. The moves in recent days by politicians in Germany and the Netherlands to prevent Turkish politicians from making campaign appearances in those countries have once again lent relevance to Erdogan's campaign. The dispute with Europe allows Erdogan to play his favorite role: that of a fearless outsider taking on the world's powerful.

Merkel Deflects Criticism

In Germany, a number of cities in recent days banned events that had been planned with members of Erdogan's government. Various pretexts were cited, from concerns about fire safety to an alleged lack of parking spaces. In response, Erdogan accused the German government of "Nazi practices." German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with cool reserve, deflecting the criticism in a way that made it appear the issue had been laid to rest.

But now the conflict has escalated again. On Saturday, the Netherlands revoked landing rights for Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu's plane and then blocked Family Minister Beytül Kaya from entering the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam that night before forcing her to drive back to Germany, from whence she had come.

The Turkish government reacted with outrage. Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, lamented a "dark day for democracy in Europe" in a tweet. "Shame on the Dutch government for succumbing to anti-Islam racists and fascists," he added in another. Turkish Finance Minister Naci Agbal said Europe was in the process of reestablishing National Socialism.

Erdogan Exploits the Dispute

In the Netherlands and in several Turkish cities, demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the event ban. In Istanbul, a man scaled the Netherlands Consulate and replaced the Dutch flag with the Turkish one. The government-aligned Yeni Akit newspaper even hinted at civil war, writing: "The Netherlands has 48,000 soldiers. There are 400,000 Turks living in the Netherlands."

President Erdogan appears determined to exploit the commotion in the final month before the referendum. Family Minister Kaya appeared before the press in the Istanbul airport following her return flight on Sunday morning. Standing together with Erdogan's step son, Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who had received her, she accused the Dutch authorities of "ugly" and "inhumane" treatment. Erdogan himself said to the Dutch: "You will pay a price. We will teach them international diplomacy."

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also threatened on Sunday morning to retaliate in the "harshest ways." Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said an "apology was not enough" and that there "will be repercussions" for the Dutch actions. The Turkish government has no interest in resolving the conflict because it knows that it stands to profit from it.

Tuna Beklevic, the head of the "No" Party, a group opposing the proposed constitutional reforms, has described the events as the "perfect storm." The dispute with Europe, he said, was precisely the kind of thing Erdogan had hoped for. Beklevic fears the scandal will mobilize nationalist voters. "It could provide Erdogan with exactly the 2 to 3 percentage points that will ultimately decide the referendum."

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turnipseed 03/13/2017
1. Merkel's providential role
Chancellor Merkel can do the world a great favor by reminding both Erdogan and Trump, two peas in a pod, that they are walking in the footstep of someone Germany knows well: Joseph Paul Goebbels.
Mila Uneed 03/13/2017
2. The Problem Of Dealing With Populists
The problem of dealing with populists is that they will invent or generate an issue where it was least expected, only to feed their campaigns on that thru their hijacked media. How can a normal democratic society deal in these cases, where any logic of national interest and civil well-being is substituted with mass hysteria? This is a million dollar question for the liberal societies, because in their quest for enemies, the idiots are always first on the move. The liberal democracies must find an answer and increase their reflex, before we get sunk by the old and new Erdogans, Le Pens, Trumps, Orbans, etc.
distrak 03/13/2017
3. Need research
You might want to do some research before you spit out more FAKE news. According to accounts from the Netherlands, Turkey gave a false description of the event when booking the venue in Rotterdam. They made no mention of Cavusoglu planning to be there. When they found out--and found out that Turks in the Netherlands were being recruited to show up there--they objected to being lied to. They tried to plan another venue, but Cavusoglu started his "nazi" slander and the Netherlands called it off. And when the other minister showed up, Holland did not back down. You can't back down to fascists. And the Turkish newspaper hinting at civil war, writing: "The Netherlands has 48,000 soldiers. There are 400,000 Turks living in the Netherlands." This is absolutely beyond any boundaries. And a Turk tearing down the Dutch flag, putting up the Turkish one and screaming Allahu Akbar! The EU should make no mistake as to the way this country is going--another radical muslim state. Why does the EU tolerate this kind of abuse of its members? No guts? No nerves? Tusk, you are so interested in feathering your nest for another 6 years--hopefully not as useless as the last 6--why don't you pipe up? Is it any wonder that these "member" states don't want to be associated with this craven bunch of cowards in Brussels? And you wonder why...LePen, Wilders, Brexit.
Inglenda2 03/13/2017
4. What proof is still needed?
What has long been obvious to the ordinary citizens of Europe, is now being realised at the level of some governments. The large majority of Turkish immigrants who are Moslem, have never tried to integrate into the European way of life. The question which the German government refuses to ask itself, is whether somebody, who is ready to vote for Erdogan, can at the same time be loyal to the German written Constitution. This would be a contradiction in itself! The Dutch are to be congratulated in their fair, but unwavering stand, against undesirable interference in their country.
peterboybarker 03/13/2017
5. Stop humouring Erdogan
Erdogan is a bully and the EU should tolerate his posturing no longer. Because of the "refugee crisis", the EU (especially Germany) has been placating/buying off Turkey for too long already. Now Turkey has openly threatened Holland and will continue to escalate such actions until strongly rebutted. The EU needs to stop economically supporting Turkey and make it plain that it will not tolerate interference in the internal affairs of its members. I doubt the EU will take strong action though, the organisation doesn't have leaders who can solve any of the major political problems (immigration of unskilled non-integrating masses, internal terrorism, economic imbalances between north/south Europe, properly representing European working classes etc etc).
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