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Crisis brews in Europe, NATO

Turkey and the Netherlands’ diplomatic feud deepened Sunday with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing the NATO ally of fascism and Denmark joining the fray, decrying “rhetorical attacks against the Netherlands.”

Upcoming votes in Turkey and the Netherlands serve as a backdrop for the dispute.

In Turkey, President Erdogan, who has cracked down on opposition particularly journalists, academics and the public service sector since a July coup attempt, is pushing an April referendum that would expand his powers.

In the Netherlands, this week’s general elections will pit a hardline anti-Islam candidate in a tight race against the incumbent prime minister.

Erdogan is keen to rally the roughly 4.6 million expatriate Turks living in Western Europe, many of whom will be permitted to vote in the Turkish referendum.

Following similar moves in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the Netherlands on Saturday barred a plane carrying Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from entering the country, citing security concerns.

Cavusoglu sought to address expats in support of the Turkish referendum. The Dutch also stopped Turkey’s family affairs minister from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam.

Protests broke out in both countries, and Erdogan responded by saying the Netherlands is “sacrificing Turkish-Dutch relations” and accused the country which lost more than 200,000 of its citizens during Germany’s World War II occupation of Nazism.

Rotterdam, where Cavusoglu hoped to speak, was especially hard hit by the Nazis.

Next month, Turkish voters will cast ballots in a constitutional referendum that could change their government structure.

If passed, it would transform the country’s parliamentary system into a presidential one, effectively consolidating the power of three legislative bodies into one executive branch under Erdogan.

Critics call the move anti-democratic and say it’s indicative of Erdogan’s drift toward authoritarian rule since the coup attempt eight months ago.

Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, ministers have said those who oppose it stand with the coup plotters and terrorists.  CNN

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