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Erdogan lands in Bosnia to hold controversial election rally

Erdogan and his wife Emine wave before embarking to Bosnia [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 May, 2018

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The Turkish president was previously barred from campaigning in other European countries, including Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed in Bosnia Sunday to hold his only election rally abroad after several EU members banned such events.

Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, who are home to large Turkish populations, have barred Turkish politicians from hosting rallies in their countries.

Turkey is slated for presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June, with three million Turkish citizens in Europe allowed to vote. 

Thousands of Turks, many wearing headscarves and carrying banners of Erdogan, arrived from all over Europe and converged on the Bosnian capital Sarajevo on Sunday. Giant billboards also welcomed Erdogan in Turkish and Bosnian. 

Crowds of 20,000 are expected, according to local media.

Despite the ban on campaign rallies in other European countries, Bosnia has not stopped Turkish politicians from campaigning there. Erdogan maintains close ties with Bosnian Muslim leader Bakir Izetbegovic and his SDA party.

"We will show that he (Erdogan) has friends and that there are those who are proud of him," Izetbegovic told supporters last week.

The Turkish leader was not liked in the West and there were many "who do not like him in this country", because "he is a powerful Muslim leader that we have not had for a long time," Izetbegovic said. 

Bosnian Serb leader Milord Dodik accused the Turkish leader of "interfering" in Bosnia's affairs.

But not all Bosnians share Izetbegovic's view. Many say his visit harks back to the Ottoman era, when the Balkans, including Bosnia, were ruled for more than four centuries. 

Half of Bosnia's 3.5 million citizens are Muslims, a third are Serbs, while Croats make some 15 per cent of the population.

Turkey has played a major role in Bosnia's reconstruction following its 1990s inter-ethnic war between Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats. 

Erdogan has called snap presidential and parliamentary elections for 24 June, bringing the polls forward by a year-and-a-half. 

The rally is due to start around 3:00 pm (1300 GMT).

Turkish nationals residing in Europe are traditionally a strong source of support for Erdogan's AKP and officials are keen to rouse high turnout in Europe.

The early election in Turkey is set to accelerate its transition to the new presidential system with full executive powers, which critics fear will lead to a one-man rule.

On Saturday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported that a plan to assassinate Erdogan during his upcoming trip to the Balkans had been foiled. 

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