WASHINGTON, ANKARA—U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday congratulated Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his slim “victory” after the country’s April 16 referendum election, vastly perceived as controversial.
The vote won the Turkish leader a plethora of new powers as president, albeit with a razor thin margin of 51% in favor of the constitutional change. International observers have expressed harsh criticism of the unfairness of the elections, given that Erdogan has launched a campaign through intimidation prior to the vote.
European officials have firmly declined to congratulate Erdogan’s win, unlike the U.S. president. “There will be no call to Erdogan from the Commission, certainly not a congratulatory call,” a Western official with knowledge of EU policy told Reuters. “Turkey is sliding towards a semi-authoritarian system under one-man rule.”
“Erdogan, whose narrow victory laid bare the nation’s divisions, told flag-waving supporters that foreign election observers should ‘know their place’ and Turkey did not ‘see, hear or acknowledge’ criticism that the vote did not live up to international standards,” reported Reuters.
In turn, the European Commission has called on Turkey to launch a transparent investigation into the election irregularities.
The White House said Trump and Erdogan during their phone call also discussed the war in Syria, which has complicated ties between the two countries, according to The Associated Press.
The White House said the two leaders further discussed the campaign against the Islamic State, including “the need to cooperate against all groups that use terrorism to achieve their ends.”