The wild card in the general elections in the Netherlands today is Turkey and the growing antiimmigration policy sentiment among the Dutch. A recent political spat has led Turkey to end diplomatic relations with its longstanding NATO ally. The war of words between the two countries has intensified this week after the Netherlands banned two Turkish ministers from holding public rallies in the country to support a referendum aimed at giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greater power.
Erdogan fumed about the Dutch government after the news, calling them "Nazi remnants and fascists" while speaking to a crowd in Istanbul.
The standoff is the latest move by Erdogan, who has cracked down on opposition — particularly journalists, academics and the public-service sector — since a July coup attempt in hopes of pushing through an April referendum that would expand his powers. In the Netherlands, today's general elections will pit hard-line anti-Islam candidate Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, in a tight race against the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.
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It's a power grab that is affecting Turkish relations with a host of other countries, as well including Germany and Greece.
Under a state-of-emergency regime, President Erdogan is conducting an all-out campaign to rally supporters at home and throughout Europe. His goal: to eliminate opposition ahead of a constitutional referendum on April 16, where a "yes" vote would officially grant him even more unchecked authority over the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government, which critics claim is reminiscent of the Ottoman Sultan, who once ruled one of the world's greatest empires.
To achieve his purpose, Erdogan is running campaigns outside Turkey. He especially aims at drumming up support for himself among Turkish citizens in Germany. Germany hosts the biggest Turkish diaspora in the world, with approximately 530,000 Germans also holding a Turkish passport. At the same time, 1.5 million Turkish people reside in Germany without German passports, and 800,000 people of Turkish origin have solely a German passport.