Photo Credit: Congress of local and regional authorities
Voting in Turkey

An estimated 64.1 million registered voters, including more than 1.76 million who already cast their ballots abroad, and 4.9 million first-time voters, are participating in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections Sunday.

Security in Ankara and Istanbul was enhanced as of last week, to make sure voters exercise their rights safely. Polling stations, set up in public schools, have opened at 8 AM local time and will close at 5 PM (noon NY time). The media is allowed to report on the elections at 9 PM, which is when unofficial results should start trickling in.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party, has ruled Turkey since 2003 when he became the prime minister, and since 2014, when he won the presidency. His main opponent, who is looking good in the polls with a little over 50% of the vote, is Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the largest opposition party, the Republican People’s Party. Kilicdaroglu is a critic of Erdogan’s policies, especially what he has done to Turkish democracy and the state of human rights there.

Kilicdaroglu’s advantage stems from the voters’ disappointment in Erdogan’s management of the catastrophic earthquakes a few months ago, especially following revelations of a corrupt system of supervision of construction projects. Also, of the 5 million young voters who will be going to the polls for the first time, Kilicdaroglu’s support is around 70%.

A third candidate, Sinan Ogan, represents the right-wing Ancestral Alliance. He is expected to steal an equal number of votes from both main contenders.

In addition to the presidential race, Turks will also elect members to the Grand National Assembly. You thought Israel had too many parties? 36 parties are running for parliament. President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party is running with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Islamic New Welfare Party as the People’s Alliance.

The opposition Nation Alliance includes the Republican People’s Party, the nationalist Good Party, the Islamic Felicity Party, the Democrat Party, Future Party, and Democracy and Progress Party.

Three smaller alliances are also running: the Labor and Freedom Alliance, Ancestral Alliance, and Union of Socialist Forces.

Turks normally vote in large numbers – the average is 84%. This year, an even higher turnout is expected. The election authorities have reported some trouble trying to spread a sufficient number of ballot boxes in the parts of southeastern Turkey that were hit by this year’s earthquakes. Those are also the areas where Erdogan is expected to do poorly.

According to YSK, Turkey’s Supreme Election Council, the country’s highest electoral authority, when the polls close, the vote counting in every ballot box will be supervised by committees of between 4 and 7 members. Registered citizens are allowed to observe the counting process. Each ballot is opened, shown to the local elections committee, and the votes are read aloud. When all committee members are satisfied, security guards move the boxes to the local district’s electoral council. The votes are then entered into the YSK’s online system, under the supervision of party representatives. The official count is later verified by the political parties and volunteer monitoring groups.

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David writes news at