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EU Refuses to Congratulate Erdogan Over ‘Unfair Elections’

After President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared his victory in the first round of the presidential vote, leaders of more than a dozen countries quickly congratulated him for the election triumph. The European Union, however, took a different stance and refused to congratulate the Turkish leader over the unfair campaign conditions.

A statement issued by the EU’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn did not mention the Turkish strongman by name or refer to his victory in Sunday’s poll, which saw him return to office with expanded powers.

Instead, the E.U., whose relations with Ankara have veered between crisis and grudging cooperation in recent years, echoed the assessment of the international observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

“As the election observation mission by OSCE/ODIHR assesses, the voters had a genuine choice, but the conditions for campaigning were not equal,” the joint statement said, referring to the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

“In addition, the restrictive legal framework and powers granted under the ongoing state of emergency restricted the freedoms of assembly and expression, including in the media.”

The E.U. has been critical of the massive crackdown launched by Erdogan in the wake of a failed coup against him in 2016 which has seen tens of thousands of people arrested under a state of emergency.

In their statement, Mogherini and Hahn said Turkey “would benefit from urgently addressing key shortcomings regarding the rule of law and fundamental rights” and warned the new presidential system has “far-reaching implications for Turkish democracy.”

The new system gives Erdogan the authority to appoint cabinet ministers and dispenses with the office of prime minister.

Opponents fear it will give him autocratic powers and could keep him in office for another decade.

Turkey has been in negotiations to join the E.U. since 2005 but the process is effectively frozen and Erdogan has drifted closer to Russia and Iran, despite being a NATO member.

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