Turks living abroad cast the first votes in the June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections on Thursday, officially starting the election race of candidates and Turkish political parties.
Voting began at airports and border gates in Turkey and in Turkish diplomatic missions. Germany, Austria, and France were the first to vote in Europe. Voters can cast ballots at 123 diplomatic missions in 60 countries from June 7-19 and at border gates from June 7-24.
As nearly 3.5 million Turkish expats are eligible to vote, political parties consider expatriate polls to be essential.
Most Turkish expats live in Germany, France and the Netherlands: 1.5 million live in Germany, France has 350,000 and the Netherlands has 260,000. Thursday morning, crowds and long lines in front of Turkish consulates in Cologne, Dusseldorf and Berlin suggested a high turnout, with voting from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time on weekdays and weekends at foreign missions.
In Austria, voting began at consulate generals in Vienna, Bregenz, and Salzburg, while expats in France vote at the consulate generals in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Paris and Strasbourg.
Turkish citizens living abroad but traveling to Turkey can vote at customs gates until 5 p.m. local time on June 24.
In the Nov. 1, 2015 general elections 44.7 percent of the electorate abroad participated in elections, while 36.8 percent participated in the June 7 elections.
In the April 16, 2017 referendum 44.8 percent of Turkish expats participated: 59.4 percent voted “yes” and 40.4 percent voted “no.”
Meanwhile, voting at customs gates at Istanbul’s Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen airports started at 8.00 a.m. local time.
Turks also started voting at the Kapıkule and Ipsala border gates in northwestern Edirne province and at the Dereköy border gate in northwestern Kırklareli province.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan runs for re-election as the candidate of the People’s Alliance, formed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) candidate is Muharrem İnce, a former intraparty rival to party Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, while the Good Party’s (İP) Chairwoman Meral Akşener will also run as a presidential candidate. Other candidates in the presidential election race are the Felicity Party’s (SP) Temel Karamollaoğlu, the Patriotic Party’s (VP) Doğu Perinçek and the pro-PKK Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş.