President Tayyip Erdogan urged on Monday Turkish voters in Europe to support the April 16 referendum on changing the constitution, saying they should to defy the “grandchildren of Nazism”, in comments that will likely cause more tensions with Europe.
Erdogan also said he would take the issue of whether Turkey should restore the death penalty to referendum if necessary.
Erdogan has repeatedly lashed out at European countries, including Germany, in campaigning for the referendum, accusing them of “Nazi-like” tactics for banning his ministers from speaking to rallies of Turkish voters abroad.
Germany has been incensed by the references to its wartime past. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the references must stop.
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 the July 15 failed coup – would all but end Turkey’s bid to join the EU, officials from the bloc have said.
Erdogan made the comments at a rally in the Black Sea province of Rize.
In less than two weeks, Turks will decide whether to boost Erdogan’s powers under a new system that would see the role of the premier axed and replaced with one or more vice presidents.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s inflation in March hit its highest annual rate in over eight years, reaching over 11 percent, according to official data on Monday.
Consumer prices rose 11.3 percent in March from the same period in 2016, the highest annual rate recorded since October 2008, the state statistics agency said.
Monthly inflation meanwhile was 1.0 percent in March from February, it added, with food, transport and alcohol prices showing strong rises.
The rise was sharper than expected, after a tentative recovery in the value of the Turkish lira following heavy losses earlier this year.
Economists said that the figures indicated that inflation was still worryingly stuck in double-digit territory and made a mockery of the central bank’s nominal inflation target of five percent.
One of Erdogan’s advisors Bulent Gedikli suggested on Twitter there would be better figures later in the year as the government seeks to allay fears over the economy before the April referendum.
“It is possible to say the inflation data is due to the exchange rate effect and it is temporary, that we will see the reflections of measures taken after the second quarter,” Gedekli said.
Meanwhile, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci insisted inflation would decline after May, in an interview with CNN Turk broadcaster.
The economy — which has shown significant signs of weakness for the first time under Erdogan’s rule — is set to be a key issue in the poll but the government was gladdened by stronger than expected 2016 growth of 2.9 percent.