(Bloomberg) -- President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Turks living in Germany not to vote for political parties he accused of verbally attacking Turkey to bolster their support in next month’s elections, drawing a rebuke from Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Germany’s Christian Democrats and Social Democratic Party -- the two ruling parties -- as well as the Greens “are all enemies of Turkey,” Erdogan said Friday in televised remarks directed at about 1 million German voters of Turkish origin. “I think Turkish voters should teach a necessary lesson at the ballot box to those political parties who are so aggressive and disrespectful toward Turkey.”
Hours later, Merkel responded through her spokesman that foreign heads of state had no business weighing in on Germany’s election process, stoking further tension between the two NATO allies.
“On President Erdogan’s recent statements: We expect foreign governments not to intervene in our internal affairs,” Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Twitter.
Erdogan’s call comes days after Merkel, who leads the Christian Democratic Union, criticized Turkey for jailing journalists and activists, saying that the bilateral relationship couldn’t continue unchanged. Expanding the European Union’s customs union to include Turkey also won’t move forward as long as tensions remain, she said.
The Turkish leader’s intervention in the German campaign less than six weeks before the Sept. 24 vote drew an stiffer response from Merkel’s Social Democratic challenger in the election, Martin Schulz, as well as Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, also in the SPD.
“Erdogan has lost any sense of proportion,” Schulz wrote on Twitter. “We stand even more with those who are fighting for a free and democratic Turkey.”
Gabriel accused Erdogan of interfering with German sovereignty, saying “I call on the people of Germany to stand against this,” according to RND.
Relations between the two countries have turned increasingly hostile after Turkey arrested a German-Turkish journalist in February and Germany refused to allow Turkish government ministers to campaign for expatriate Turks’ votes before a referendum giving Erdogan sweeping powers in April. They soured further after Turkey arrested 10 human rights activists, including the director of Amnesty International and a German citizen, in July.