BERLIN: Turkey barred at least two European lawmakers from entering the country to participate in an election observation mission, prompting warnings about the transparency and fairness of presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.
President Tayyip Erdogan is widely expected to win re-election on Sunday, after which the presidency will be given sweeping new executive powers. Campaigning has already been marred by violence, and opposition politicians complain that they are being denied sufficient media coverage.
The bans for the two lawmakers from Germany and Sweden, European countries that are home to large ethnic Turkish communities, will fuel concerns among rights activists that voting irregularities will go unchecked.
Andrej Hunko, a lawmaker for Germany's Left party, said he was sitting in an airplane waiting to depart for Turkey when he was informed about the ban. The German foreign ministry said it was seeking to have the ban lifted.
Sweden's foreign ministry said Jabar Amin, a lawmaker from the Greens party, had also been refused entry. Amin had told Swedish news agency TT that he was arrested on arrival at Istanbul's Ataturk airport and his passport was confiscated.
"We have just recently been informed that Jabar Amin has been denied entry into Turkey. We have raised the issue with Turkish representatives and demand an explanation," said Gunnar Vrang, a spokesman for the Swedish foreign ministry.
Hunko had been due to participate in an observation mission run by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an inter-governmental body.
"The members of the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE play an important role in observing elections and in strengthening democracy and the rule of law," the OSCE said in a statement.
Erdogan, a masterful campaigner who has ruled Turkey for 16 years, will go into the elections under a state of emergency, which has been in place since shortly after a failed coup in 2016. A sweeping crackdown since the coup attempt has seen some 160,000 people detained and nearly the same number dismissed from jobs, the United Nations said in March.
(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Stockholm and Tom Koerkemeier in Berlin; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Peter Graff)