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In March 2017, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte declared that the Turkish minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was not welcome to campaign among eligible Turkish voters in The Netherlands for a yes vote in the Turkish constitutional referendum, 2017. Earlier, a planned rally in Germany had been cancelled and he spoke from the Hamburg consulate balcony instead.

Why were Netherlands and Germany (home to many Turkish citizens) keen to prevent Çavuşoğlu from campaigning in favour of a yes vote in the Turkish referendum? Arguably, this referendum is a domestic Turkish responsibility, Turkish nationals living abroad have a right to participate in the elections. There was no fuss when Macron campaigned among French voters in London for the French presidential election. Was it because Çavuşoğlu is a minister and Macron is not? Why the controversy?

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    I would think it has to German history and the issue of democracy. Germany is of obvious reasons very reluctant to help promote the abolishing of democracy. – liftarn Mar 9 '17 at 15:25
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To make a blunt comparison: you wouldn't want a North-Korean official campaigning for Kim Jong-un in your country, would you?

Erdoğan is not Kim Jong-un, but his government in widely seen as as having authoritarian tendencies, especially after the failed coup attempt last year. To make matters worse, the specific referendum Çavuşoğlus wants to campaign for is seen as further increasing the authoritarian power of Erdoğan's government.

In addition to that, there is some context specific to the status of Turkish citizens in the Netherlands.
The integration of Turkish citizens – or rather, the lack thereof – in Dutch society is something that has drawn criticism in the last few years from various parties, both left and right. The double nationality is sometimes seen as an indication or symbol for the lack of integration. This has caused controversy several times before; for example the appointment of Nebahat Albayrak (who holds both the Dutch and Turkish nationality) to the cabinet in 2010.
I suspect the entire affair would be significantly less controversial if the conflict would be with another country (like, say, Belarus).

Lastly, the elections in a week increase the attention even more; especially since the current prime minister (Rutte) is competing with Wilders/PVV, who has been very vocal about the topic for many years.


I'm not that familiar with the German situation, but from what I've read it's essentially the same as the Dutch.

  • Did anyone outside the PVV consider the appointment of Albayrak controversial? – gerrit Mar 10 '17 at 9:54
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    @gerrit Yes. I specifically remember VVD/Rutte campaigning against it as well. – Martin Tournoij Mar 10 '17 at 16:28
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    Unless you are North Korean! Which is exactly the question why it is controversial. What this has to do with double nationalities I do not understand. – Martijn Burger Mar 11 '17 at 20:48
  • @MartijnBurger I think it's an important piece of context why especially this Turkish campaign is so controversial. I suspect the entire affair would be significantly less controversial if the conflict would be with another country (like, say, Belarus). I'll update the wording slightly to make that a bit clearer. – Martin Tournoij Mar 13 '17 at 22:46
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The rally in Germany was officially canceled because of fire safety concerns, not for political reasons.

That being said, there are currently at least three issues:

  • The referendum is seen as another move towards a more authoritarian regime.
  • Election campaigns by foreign nationals about divisive issues are not welcome in general.
  • Turkey is currently keeping a German journalist in prison for trumped up terrorism charges.

Cem Özdemir summarized the first two points by saying that he feels ill when thinking about Turkish government officials advertising the demise of Turkish democracy in Germany.

But while those are considered issues, Merkel confirmed that election campaigns by foreign nationals are legal and that she is hoping for a good relationship between Germany and Turkey.

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