ISTANBUL — Accusations of voter fraud, alleged human rights abuses, and concerns about a slide toward authoritarianism — none of this stopped President Donald Trump congratulating Turkey’s leader on his controversial referendum victory this week.
Trump’s warm words were a stark contrast to the criticism from European leaders and independent election monitors, who are concerned the vote may have been unfair.
The result will greatly increase Erdogan’s power, and his government also stands accused of detaining and torturing opponents following a recent coup attempt.
Other Western allies in Europe have expressed concern, but Trump’s message of support has won him favor among Erdogan’s conservative supporter base inside Turkey itself.
“I read in the newspaper that Trump had called to congratulate Erdogan and I was so happy,” said Yusuf Erçikti, an 22-year-old cashier at a small candy shop near Istanbul’s central Taksim Square. He said he voted yes in the referendum because he supports Erdogan.
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