Turkish PM hails MHP leader’s remarks on Germany amid top officials’ criticism of Berlin

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım says Nationalist Movement Party leader Bahçeli’s attitude shows how Turkey is united in national affairs. Earlier, Turkish President Erdogan and top Turkish officials criticized Germany’s rally ban.

Turkey’s prime minister Monday praised remarks by an opposition party leader backing Ankara’s position in the dispute over Germany banning Turkish officials’ rallies, saying the remarks showed “unity”.
In a TV interview, Binali Yıldırım said opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli’s attitude served as a good message to Europe and how it is treating the April 16 Turkish constitutional referendum.

“This was a good message to Europe and I think it is important to show how Turkey is united in national affairs,” Yıldırım said.

Earlier on Monday, Bahçeli told a Turkish TV channel that he would be glad to accompany President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on a potential rally in Europe.

“If the president decides to go to Europe, he is not alone in his decision. As the MHP leader, I would go to Europe along with him,” Bahçeli said.

Yıldırım also told how in a phone call on Saturday he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the recent rally ban crisis between the two countries.

“We clearly expressed Turkey’s concerns on the issue. Democracy means freedom, democracy means sharing ideas without being subject to any restrictions.”

“If Germany does this [a rally ban], it makes what they say to Turkey about democracy meaningless,” Yıldırım said.

Relations between Turkey and Germany plunged to a new low last week after local German authorities cancelled rallies of Turkey’s justice and economy ministers, who were scheduled to meet the representatives of Germany’s 3 million-strong Turkish community, on the proposed constitutional changes.

Erdogan lashes out at Germany over rally bans

On Sunday, Erdoğan slammed German authorities for undermining the freedom of expression and right to assembly, saying such policies “are no different from the Nazi ones of the past”.

Speaking at a meeting of the Women and Democracy Foundation (KADEM) in Istanbul, Erdogan accused Germany of repeating past Nazi habits.

“They do not let our friends speak in Germany. Let them do it. Do you think that barring a Turkish minister from pronouncing a speech [in Germany] will make the votes ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes’?” Erdogan said.

“Germany! You have nothing to do with democracy. Your recent practices are no different than the Nazi ones of the past,” he added. On Thursday, the municipality of Gaggenau in southwest Germany revoked its permission for Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag’s meeting, citing concerns about overcrowding. This prompted Bozdag to cancel his planned visit to Germany altogether.

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci’s planned address on Sunday to a Turkish community in the western city of Cologne was also cancelled by local authorities over security concerns.

Erdogan also criticized the Netherlands for banning the Turkish ministers and politicians for holding public rallies.

Top Turkish officials criticize Germany’s rally ban

Turkey’s top government officials Friday slammed Germany’s decision to revoke permission for an address by Turkey’s justice minister on Thursday to members of the local Turkish community.

Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the incident was “upsetting”.

“This is an insincere approach and attitude. Such a ban is not compatible with any law, universal value or democratic understanding,” he told reporters in the southeastern province of Gaziantep.

He went on to say that Germany was “embracing” terrorist organizations and providing them with every “convenience” while “muting” Turkey.

“We invite Germany and others to act in accordance with the values and criteria which they defend,” he added.

Development Minister Lutfi Elvan described the move as “ugly” and “shameful”, adding it “neither complies with freedom of speech nor democratic rights and freedoms”.

“It made us even more upset as this incident happened in the heart of Europe and in one of the most important countries of the European Union,” Elvan told reporters during an official visit in Turkey’s central Aksaray province.

The “scandal”, Elvan said, showed that Germany had “failed at internalizing the [principle of] freedom of speech”.

Elvan added: “But besides this, Germany has opened its door to terrorist organizations wide open. Today the PKK terrorist organization is acting freely in Germany and their leaders’ statements are broadcast on German TV channels. Is Germany on the side of democracy or on the side of terrorism?”

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said the ban would not stop him from cancelling his planned visit to Germany on Sunday.

He said he would go “door to door” if necessary to meet the Turkish citizens there.

“If necessary, we will meet at cafes and homes. You can draw physical boundaries, but hearts know no boundaries. We will meet somehow.”

On Thursday, the municipality of Gaggenau in southwest Germany revoked its permission for Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag’s meeting, citing concerns about overcrowding. This prompted the minister to cancel his planned visit to Germany.

The cancellation from the Gaggenau municipality has drawn strong criticism from the Turkish government. After the incident, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador, Martin Erdmann.

The event was organized by the Union of European Turkish Democrats, or UETD.

Nearly 1.5 million Turkish residents in Germany are eligible to vote in Turkey’s April 16 referendum on constitutional reforms, which include a switch to a presidential system of governance.

Turkish citizens in Germany can cast their votes at Turkish consulates between March 27 and April 9.