Huge expat turn out in Turkish Presidential and parliamentary elections

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News Analysis |

On April 18, The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the country will be heading for snap elections once again. Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the ultra-nationalist National Movement Party (MHP) and an ally of Erdoğan,  called for early elections on August 26, rather than the scheduled November 2019 date. It soon became apparent that Bahçeli had not acted on his own. The following day, Erdoğan and Bahçeli met to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a snap election, and then declared that an early contest will, in fact, be held on June 24. The elections are taking place in Turkey on Sunday, during which President Tayyip Erdogan will be seeking to extend his 15-year rule and assume sweeping new presidential powers, which he says the country needs to address its economic and security threats.

But for the Turkish nationals living abroad, the facility to cast their vote had been arranged in the Turkish consulates and embassies all around the world – especially in European countries like Germany. Out of the 3.057 million registered non-resident Turkish voters, over one million are concentrated in Germany alone. The number of Turks voting abroad in this month’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey rose to a record level of 1.49 million, the head of the High Election Board, Sadi Guven, said on Wednesday. The huge turnout can have a serious impact on the result of parliamentary and presidential elections which will be held in Turkey on June 24, 2018.

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According to unofficial Supreme Board of Election (YSK) figures, turnout in all 60 countries has reached 41 percent. The figures show that some 1.26 million out of 3 million registered Turkish voters abroad have gone to the polls so far. Six candidates are running for president, while eight political parties are taking part in the parliamentary elections. If the presidential election goes to a second round, the voters will go to the polls again one of the following Sundays. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has served as the president since 2014 – Turkey’s first popularly elected president. Before that, he served as the prime minister from 2003 to 2014. If re-elected on Sunday, he will be Turkey’s first president under its new presidential system of government.

The parliamentary election will determine the incoming 600 members of the Parliament, up from 550, and the minimum age for members will be 18, lowered from 25 by the 2017 constitutional amendments. The parliamentary election is to be held every five years, raised from four years, and are held on the same day as the presidential election. In the current parliamentary system, the conservative Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rules the country alone, controlling around three-fifths of the seats in the Parliament after the November 2015 general election. It is followed by the main opposition center-right Republican People’s Party (CHP), pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and the newly formed right-wing IYI (Good) Party.

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A referendum held in April 2017 granted sweeping presidential powers to President Erdogan. These newly designated authorities are as followed:

  • The president will be able to directly appoint top public officials, including ministers
  • He will also be able to assign one or several vice-presidents
  • The job of the prime minister will be scrapped
  • The president will have the power to intervene in the judiciary, which Erdogan has accused of being influenced by Fethullah Gulen.
  • The president will decide whether or not to impose a state of emergency

President Erdogan will be seeking to extend his 15 years tenure which he thinks is necessary to meet the challenges which Turkey, as a state, is facing right now. The economy has become a major issue in Turkish elections thanks to inflation that’s running at 12%, and a currency that has dropped to a record low against the US dollar. Erdogan, who says he wants greater control over the economy, has made matters worse by suggesting he wants to control interest rates. Foreign investors, who fear a loss of independence at the central bank, have taken flight.