Germany says Turkey’s Erdogan welcome to hold election rally in Cologne despite mounting criticism

(Reuters) – Germany has rejected calls for Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to cancel his visit to Cologne on Saturday, when he is due to address almost 20,000 supporters in what could amount to a de facto rally for Turkey’s presidential poll in August.

Erdogan has not yet said whether he will run for the Turkish president, but he is widely expected to do so.

Although his party says the Cologne speech is not a campaign event, some German lawmakers have urged Berlin to discourage it, owing to Erdogan’s pugnacious style and what critics say are his increasing authoritarian tendencies.

One leading Christian Democrat, Julia Klöckner, urged Turks living in Germany to boycott the event to protest Erdogan’s reaction to a mining disaster in Turkey last week that killed 301 people. His stance sparked angry protests in Turkey.