Erdoğan calls on Turks in Europe to defy ‘grandchildren of Nazism’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers a speech during a mass opening ceremony in Eskişehir, Turkey on March 17, 2017. Murat Kula / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday called on Turkish voters in Europe to defy the “grandchildren of Nazism” and back a constitutional reform package that will be put to a public referendum on April 16 to introduce an executive presidency to Turkey.

Erdoğan made the comments at a rally in the Black Sea province of Rize.

Relations between Turkey and Europe have been severely strained since Turkish ministers were prevented from campaigning on the continent for a “yes” vote in this month’s referendum on expanding Erdoğan’s powers.

Ankara has said such behavior was reminiscent of Nazi Germany and also raised alarm over what it sees as rising racism and Islamophobia.

Germany branded as “unacceptable” Erdoğan’s charge that Chancellor Angela Merkel was using “Nazi measures” but signaled it wanted to avoid escalating the feud.

Erdoğan also said he would take the issue of whether Turkey should restore the death penalty to referendum if necessary. Turkey abandoned capital punishment more than a decade ago as part of its bid to join the European Union. Restoring capital punishment — which crowds have called for following a failed coup attempt on July 15 — would all but end Turkey’s bid to join the EU, officials from the bloc have said.

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