Police in the Austrian capital of Vienna are on alert ahead of Sunday’s Turkish referendum and say they are prepared for any “incidents” that may occur.“We do not expect any kind of riots to occur, no matter how the referendum goes,” said police public relations spokesman Patrick Maierhofer. He noted police were prepared for any eventuality and would follow the results of the referendum closely, Die Presse reports.
The Turkish referendum will see Turkish voters decide whether to abolish the position of prime minister and give current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan greater executive powers. The “Yes” campaign, led by Erdoğan and his government, has already stirred controversy in Europe when several ministers attempted to hold rallies for the large Turkish populations in Germany and the Netherlands.
The Netherlands chose to exclude two Turkish ministers from the country which led to accusations from Erdoğan that the Netherlands were “Nazi remnants“, alleging they were responsible for war crimes in Kosovo. Hundreds of Turks also clashed with police in the city of Rotterdam in response to the ministers’ entry ban.
The spontaneous riots are not the first time that large groups of Turks in European countries, including Austria, have taken to the streets. The most notable incident occurred in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup last July.
In Vienna, thousands of Turks marched on the streets on the night of the failed coup. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told Turkish citizens they must be loyal to Austria first and told them they were welcome to “go home” if they disagreed.
“Whoever wants to be involved in Turkish domestic politics, they are free to leave our country,” Kurz said.
Austria has had rocky relations with Turkey since the failed coup culminating in December of last year when Kurz and the Austrian government vetoed Turkish membership of the European Union. In response to the veto, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said Turkey would fight Austria “on all levels”.
Other groups in Austria have also been vocal about their disapproval of the policies of the Turkish government. Last month, members of the hipster-right anti-Islamisation Identitarian youth movement hung a large banner on the Turkish embassy in Vienna emblazoned with the words: “Erdoğan, take your Turks home!”
The protest was largely in response to comments made by Erdoğan days prior in which he said Europeans would not be safe on their own streets.