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Turkey Elections: Absentee voting ends with record 51% turnout in 73 countries

Absentee voting, which ended on Tuesday for nearly 3.5 million Turkish citizens registered abroad, saw record participation.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to supporters at a rally while campaigning for the presidential election on May 07, 2023 in Istanbul, Turkey. On May 14th, Turkey’s President Erdogan will face his biggest electoral test as voters head to the polls in the country’s general election. Erdogan has been in power for more than two decades, first as prime minister and then as president, but his popularity has taken a hit recently due to Turkey’s ongoing economic crisis and his government’s handling o

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s absentee voting ended on Tuesday with a record turnout ahead of the general vote this Sunday in the country's tightest elections in recent history. 

The number of absentee voters at polling stations abroad and at border customs offices exceeded 1.76 million, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu News Agency reported, citing the country’s Higher Election Board. 

The turnout, which currently stands at little more than 51%, is higher than the last presidential and parliamentary elections in June 2018. In that election, the number of absentee ballots stood at 44.6%, according to the official figures.

Absentee voting, which began April 28 in 73 countries across the world, ended on Tuesday for nearly 3.5 million Turkish registered voters abroad. Voting at polling stations at customs offices located at land crossings, airports and sea harbors, meanwhile, will remain open until May 14. 


Videos circulating on social media over the past week showed long queues of voters waiting to cast their ballots in front of Turkey’s diplomatic missions across Europe. 

Emre Agdere, 37, a Turkish voter based in Dublin, told Al-Monitor that he and his friend had to wait for more than five hours before casting their votes at the Turkish Embassy in Dublin last Friday. “We went at noon during our lunch break, thinking that there wouldn't be many people during a weekday. But once we got there we saw a huge queue of some 200 to 300 meters,” Agdere said. 

According to official data, Ireland is home to more than 6,500 registered Turkish voters. Once they learned that it took nearly more than an hour for the queue to progress less than 50 meters, Agdere’s friend brought camping chairs, snacks and backgammon from his house nearby.

“The weather was beautiful, and it’s difficult to catch a sunny day in Dublin. So we sat, played backgammon, trying to make the most of the day.”

Another Dubliner, Bora Ozbayburtlu, 46, said he and his family members waited for nearly two hours before casting their ballots last Saturday. 

“The majority of the people who were standing in the line with us were young voters,” Ozbayburtlu said. “I think young people have more faith in change.” 

Sunday's race marks the most tightly contested elections in the country’s history. For the four-candidate presidential vote, which will be largely fought between two frontrunners, polls gave a slight lead to main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu against incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Yet neither of them has yet to secure more than 50% of the vote to be elected as the president in the first round, several pollsters say.  

In the 2018 elections, Erdogan received a strong majority of the absentee vote — more than 60%. But with higher turnout seen among Turkish youth abroad in this election, it is unclear if this majority will hold. The ballots will be counted on Sunday. 

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