Populist Austrian Vice Chancellor and leader of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) Heinz-Christian Strache has said that Turks in Austria who voted for Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should return to Turkey.
Mr Strache made his comments on Facebook over the weekend posting a picture of himself with the caption: “I recommend all the Turks in Austria who voted for Erdoğan should return to Turkey!”
So far the post has 26,000 likes, has been shared more than 6,000 times, and has garnered over a thousand comments, many of which question how so many Turks could vote as Austria has strict rules on acquiring dual citizenship.
The comments come as Austria and Turkey have seen increasing tensions sparked by Austria announcing the closure of seven radical mosques and the deportation of dozens of imams, many linked to Turkish organisations.
President Erdoğan reacted to the announcement of the closures saying: “These measures taken by the Austrian prime minister are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent.”
“They say they’re going to kick our religious men out of Austria. Do you think we will not react if you do such a thing? That means we’re going to have to do something,” he added.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 17, 2017
According to statistics gathered shortly after the Turkish national election, around 72.3 percent of Turkish voters in Austria voted for Erdoğan. Only the Netherlands and Belgium had higher vote shares for the Turkish President.
Strache, along with Austrian Chancellor and leader of the Austrian People’s Party Sebastian Kurz has criticised both the Turkish government and the Turkish migrant population in Austria in the past.
Following the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, Turks took to the streets in Vienna to celebrate Erdoğan’s victory leading to Kurz, who was Foreign Minister at the time, making a similar statement to Strache calling for Turks to be loyal to Austria or “go home”.
“Whoever wants to be involved in Turkish domestic politics, they are free to leave our country,” Kurz said.
It is generally illegal for Austrian citizens to hold a second citizenship in a foreign nation — but because there is no way to reliably prove foreign citizenship, the law most often goes unenforced.