Turks Living Abroad: To Vote or Not To Vote?
With just days to go until the 2023 elections, which will create a breaking point in Turkiye’s history, one of the issues that voters are most curious about is the overseas votes. How many Turkish citizens living abroad go to the ballot box? How does the public opinion view the voting of Turks living abroad?
Many countries have a Turkish diaspora. Especially in Western countries, there are provinces and regions where Turkish citizens are concentrated. The labour migration that started in Germany in 1961 had been the
foundation of a Turkish population that would last for generations in this West European country. With this wave of migration that started during the Cold War, Germany is still the country that has the largest Turkish
Of course, it would be wrong to think of Turks living abroad as homogenous. The lifestyles of Turks living abroad are different from each other. For instance, the life of a Turkish student who was born and raised in Turkiye
and then went to the USA for education and a Turkish citizen who is the third generation of a working class family in Germany are different. Turks who go abroad as senior executives of leading companies, Turks who own döner kebab restaurants, Turkish academics… Each group has different traditions and cultural codes. These codes also appear in the elections. In this regard according to a study, the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, the activities of diaspora organisations and civil society movements affect the voting behaviour of these Turkish
citizens to different extents.
When it comes to the elections, the participation rate of Turks abroad is not as high as in Turkey. For example, while the number of registered voters abroad was 3 million 44 thousand 837 in the 2018 elections, the number of voters who voted was 1 million 525 thousand 279 in total.
Thus, the voter participation rate in the June 24 elections abroad and at custom gates was 50.09%. In the 2018 presidential elections, Erdoğan received 60.2% of the votes abroad. İnce received 24.53%, Demirtaş 11.71% and
Akşener 2.75% of the votes.
When analyzed by countries, Erdoğan received the most votes in Lebanon with 93.99% of the vote. He was followed by Jordan and Belgium. İnce came first in the US with 69.26% of the vote, followed by Spain and Ireland. Demirtaş came first in Iraq with 44.23% and in Japan with 39.61%.
Turkish citizens living abroad have been able to vote at custom gates in Turkey since 1987. The abroad voter registry was established in 2008. The possibility of voting in foreign embassies was introduced by a law in 2012.
However, a significant number of voters living in Turkey are against Turks abroad having a say in the elections. We have discussed this issue in our April report.
With the upcoming elections, the voting rights of Turkish citizens living abroad caused a public discussion.
In January 2022, when we asked the participants “Do you think Turkish citizens living abroad should vote in the elections?”, the majority with 51% answered “No”. The rate of those who answered “Yes” remained at 47%.
Before the 2023 elections, the majority of people said “Turks living abroad should vote”. When we asked the same question in April 2023, the trend changed. The majority of respondents support the right of Turkish citizens living abroad to vote in elections (55%). 42% are against this idea.