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Globe editorial: Erdogan’s desire to be a superexecutive

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has been working hard to offend his NATO allies lately. "Nazism is still widespread in the West," he said last week, and that was hardly the worst of it.

Mr. Erdogan is upset because he is currently promoting a referendum in Turkey that, if he wins, would allow him to change the country's constitution.

He wants to be an "executive president," with powers that would go far beyond those of any previous prime minister or president of Turkey, or for that matter of those of any known liberal-democratic regime.

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Mr. Erdogan appears to be very anxious about the outcome, however – so much so that he wants to make sure that as many as possible Turkish citizens living and working abroad, particularly in Rotterdam (which has a large Muslim population), get out and vote in favour of the proposed new constitution on April 16.

Dutch officials, however, have prevented his ministers from attending and leading rallies in their country, partly because the Netherlands is in the middle of a general election campaign, with the vote coming this Wednesday.

This has angered Mr. Erdogan. At a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, he struck an ominous note, saying, "Holland! If you are sacrificing Turkish-Dutch relations for the sake of the elections on Wednesday, you will pay a price."

Mr. Erdogan's message is hypocritical. He is angry that Turks living in the Netherlands have had their right to assemble compromised, but that is something he has done on a massive scale in his own country to his own people, arresting tens of thousands in the wake of a failed coup last year.

As well, his stridency plays into the demagoguery of the long-time anti-immigration Dutch politician Geert Wilders and his ill-named Party for Freedom. They are poised to make a breakthrough in Wednesday's election.

Mr. Erdogan has accused the Netherlands of being a "banana republic" – yet another insult. He should re-examine what he is trying to do in his own country before pointing fingers elsewhere.

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