Turkey’s President Addresses Cheering Supporters in Sarajevo

Crowds converging on central Sarajevo, big speeches, an alleged assassination plot foiled and journalists complaining about restricted access marked the Sunday rally in Sarajevo, addressed by President Erdogan.

Turkey’s President appeared on stage at the packed Zetra as thousands of expatriate Turks cheered. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on “European Turks to show their strength to the whole world” at the rally organized one month before his country’s snap presidential and parliamentary elections.

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Supporters from mainly Austria and Germany welcomed the President after arriving for the rally in buses. The rally was organized in Sarajevo as the governments in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands said they would not allow rallies for the Turkish elections. Turkey will vote on June 24, more than a year earlier than scheduled. The presidential election will usher in an executive presidency that concentrates more powers in the president’s hands and abolishes the office of prime minister.

During his appearance at Zetra, Erdogan criticized the European governments for “failing the test of democracy” that Bosnia passed by hosting the rally. He said his government would work to provide employment opportunities for Turkish citizens who retired abroad and new programs for children to learn Turkish.

He urged supporters to actively participate in European politics as a way to counter anti-Turkish sentiment.

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Earlier this weekend, Turkey’s Anadolu state news agency reported on details of an assassination plot against Turkish President, reportedly planned to be carried out during his visit to Bosnia. According to the agency, Turkish intelligence confirmed reports that a Turkish group planned to assassinate the President during his visit on Sunday. Security services reportedly received intelligence from Turkish citizens living in the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

On Sunday, BIRN journalists complained that they were banned from the rally in Sarajevo, together with several other media outlets.

“You are not on the list and this list is approved by the government… by the embassy of Turkey,” Lemija Demirbas, who was in charge of press passes, told a BIRN correspondent in Sarajevo.

Erdogan and the Bosniak member of the Bosnian Presidency Bakir Izetbegović, who also spoke at the rally, discussed the construction of a highway connecting Belgrade and Sarajevo, increased export of meat from Bosnia and the ambition to drive the trade between the two countries to US$ one billion, reported N1.

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