As local Belgian elections approach, the post of a Facebook page titled “AK Parti Belçika” (Justice and Development Party [AKP] Belgium) calling on Turks not to vote for Zühal Demir, a Belgian-Turkish politician from the New Flemish Alliance Party (N-VA), has sparked a discussion in the media, BBC Turkish service reported.
The post, sent last week, described the N-VA and the party’s candidate for Genk city mayor, Zühal Demir, as “an enemy of Islam, an enemy of Turks and a racist.”
The AK Parti Belçika page, which has some 68,000 subscribers on Facebook, called on Belgian citizens of Turkish origin to support the second most powerful party in the city, the Christian Democrats.
Demir brought the issue to a live TV discussion with current Genk Mayor Wim Dries, saying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would not like her to be mayor, asking Dries if he was happy with Erdoğan’s support for him.
Belgian media said that “Erdoğan’s long arm is trying to reach the Flemish part of the country.”
Following the criticism, AK Parti Belçika posted an explanation in Dutch saying the views were their own, not those of President Erdoğan.
AKP Brussels representative Ruhi Açıkgöz also told Belgian media that they did not share the Facebook page’s views.
“Belgian Turks should be able to vote for whomever they want, including Zühal Demir,” he added.
Demir, who was born in 1980 in Genk, is a lawyer and politician serving as a state minister in the federal government. She is usually criticized by the Belgian-Turkish community for her remarks against the AKP. Her party N-VA is also considered a nationalist and subjected to criticism from several political parties for being discriminative and exclusive in its policies.
Meanwhile, the N-VA posted an opinion piece on its website on Thursday, accusing Belgian-Turkish supporters of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of being “extremists” and “infiltrating all political parties in the country.”
“The Gray Wolves and their followers are, after all, the powerful arm of Turkish President Erdoğan in Flemish region and elsewhere in Europe,” the piece said.