Erdoğan campaigns in Bosnia after pledging motorway

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a rally in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday after pledging to finance a new 3 billion-euro ($3.5 billion) motorway connecting Belgrade and Sarajevo.

During his speech at a sportshall in Sarejevo to 15,000 supporters, Erdoğan slammed Europe’s leaders for barring him from holding similar rallies elsewhere. Thousands travelled from Germany, Austria and elsewhere in the Balkans to attend the event ahead of elections in Turkey on June 24, Reuters reported.

“At a time when renowned European countries claiming to be the cradle of civilization failed, Bosnia and Herzegovina showed by allowing us to gather here that it is a real democracy not a so-called one,” Reuters cited Erdoğan as saying.

Germany, where some 3 million people of Turkish origin live, says it is barring foreign politicians from holding election campaigns on its territory. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said last month that Erdoğan would be barred from trying to exploit Europe’s Turkish communities, Reuters said.

Erdoğan is seeking re-election as president at the polls, which also include an election for parliament. He is seeking a mandate to abolish parliamentary democracy and introduce a full presidential system of government with greater powers for the country’s leader than in nations such as the United States and France.

The Turkish president is already ruling by decree under emergency rule introduced following an attempted military coup in July 2016, which he blames on Islamic preacher Fethulah Gulen and his secretive Islamist movement. Gulen denies he was involved in its planning.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said on Saturday that there were tip-offs about a possible assassination attempt on Erdoğan during his visit.

Asked about the report, Erdoğan said such threats and operations wouldn’t deter him from campaigning in the country.

Turkey and Bosnia signed a letter of intent for the new motorway on Sunday.

Democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which formally applied for EU membership in 2016, is declining year after year, according to Freedom House. Politicians fail to respect the will of citizens, who are at the same time unable to hold leaders accountable for their actions, the monitoring group has said.