World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkish people living in more than 50 countries have started voting in Turkey’s first contest to directly elect the country’s twelfth president.
However, turnout at voting stations overseas has reportedly been slow so far, with less than 10 percent of Turkey's 2.7 million expat voters registering to cast their ballot at embassies and consulates.
According to Turkey’s High Election Board, more than 53 million people are eligible to vote inside Turkey but less than 250,000 of overseas voters have made an appointment with embassies. This new practice has been unpopular among Turks, with many choosing to return home for summer holidays.
Some presidential candidates have held rallies in several European countries to speak to potential voters, which make up near 5 percent of the whole electorate.
Ruling AK Party candidate, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Germany, Austria and France, earlier this year where he spoke to large crowds. Pro-Kurdish HDP candidate Selahattin Demirtas met supporters in London, Paris and Berlin during July.
The August 10 election will be the first time Turks have voted directly for their president; the head-of-state was previously selected by members of parliament.
In countries with large Turkish populations, including several European and Middle Eastern nations, the U.S. and Turkmenistan, polling stations will be open for four days until August 3.
The dates will vary according to the size of Turkish population in a total of 54 countries.
Citizens who missed their opportunity in voting centers can vote in customs stations along Turkish borders until August 10. Polling day will likely see an influx of Turkish citizens wanting to spend their holiday in their hometowns; long queues were reported along Turkey’s Bulgarian border last week.
Polling for overseas Turks begun at Turkish border posts last Saturday.
In Germany, home to the world's largest expatriate Turkish population, voting started at 8am (GMT+2) in 500 ballot boxes for almost 1.4 million Turkish voters in seven cities.
On the other side of the world from Turkey, in Melbourne, Australia, Turkish citizens began voting – with some even flying 3,500 km from the western city of Perth. Canberra and Sydney also hosted voting centers.
"This is a civic duty. I came to vote regardless of any difficulty [about] the cost or the distance," said Salih Arslan, a Turkish resident from the capital of Western Australia, Perth, speaking to AA.
Turkey’s Melbourne consul general Seyit Apak said the voting arrangements had attracted “fair” attention but added that it was too early to tell how many voters would take advantage of the new system.
Three major cities in China – Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou – are also hosting polling stations, which will open for today only.
One of around 240,000 eligible Turkish voters in Netherlands, Fatma Cimtay, said she was glad to be at the voting center in Rotterdam as it was 40 years since she last placed her ballot into a box in Turkey.
"I am really happy to embrace this right abroad," Cimtay told AA.
Brussels also hosted one of two poll centers in Belgium for almost 130,000 eligible voters in a day which ambassador Mehmet Hakan Olcay described as "historic", stressing it had been 50 years since the first group of Turkish expats came to the country.
In Turkmenistan, where more than 3,700 people have made appointments to vote, Ashgabat ambassador Sevki Mutevellioglu said he was expecting “major attention”, with an estimated 900 daily turnout.Güncelleme Tarihi: 31 Temmuz 2014, 17:51