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Turkey calls Austrian FM racist, Islamophobic over Erdoğan rally debate

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Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hüseyin Müftüoğlu said on Monday that Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz was racist and Islamophobic due to recent remarks against a possible rally to be held by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Austria for an upcoming referendum that will significantly expand his powers.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Müftüoğlu said that “it seems Kurz, whose racist and Islamophobic views are far beyond radical [rightist] parties, is once again trying to draw attention to his own political interests by targeting our country.”

Underlining that Kurz’s remarks criticizing Erdoğan’s rally in Austria are against international principles of democracy, Müftüoğlu condemned Kurz, saying, “We don’t accept these irresponsible and excessive remarks [by Kurz] or the crooked ideology behind them.”

Earlier on Monday Kurz said Erdoğan was “not welcome” to hold a rally in the country for an upcoming referendum on a constitutional reform package, warning that such a move could increase tension among Turks in the country.

Kurz said that Erdoğan campaigning for the reform package, which will introduce an executive presidency in Turkey, would “increase friction” in Austria and “hinder the integration” of the country’s 360,000-strong Turkish minority, which includes 117,000 Turkish citizens.

Turkey will hold a referendum on the reform package on April 16, and media reports say Erdoğan will embark on a European tour to seek support from Turkish expatriates.

Campaign events are not welcome. Of course the Turkish president, like other senior politicians, can make bilateral visits to Europe and Austria for talks with top officials,” said Kurz.

But we clearly reject bringing the Turkish campaign and polarization to Austria,” Kurz was quoted as saying in a foreign ministry statement.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), pushed through the legislation that President Erdoğan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism.

The reform will enable Erdoğan to appoint and dismiss government ministers, take back the leadership of the ruling party and govern until 2029.

The plans foresee presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms.

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