Elections in Turkey: The polling stations are tight

Turkey voted. There is a high turnout in the elections. Queues formed in front of polling stations early in the morning.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in front of his polling station in Ankara on Sunday

All eyes on him: Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Sunday in front of his polling station in Ankara Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters

ANKARA taz | “Dad, what is the CHP?” asks a young girl as she exits an election office in the Turkish capital Ankara on Sunday. “CHP stands for Republican People’s Party,” says the man. “And what’s the other thing?” the girl wants to know. The father replies: “It’s the AK party, a worthless thing.” The man takes the daughter by the hand and the two of them walk away.

Almost 61 million Turkish citizens were called on Sunday to re-elect both the country’s president and parliament. Even before the polling stations closed at 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. CEST), there were signs of a high turnout. Queues had formed in front of many polling stations early in the morning.

The results of the votes are now eagerly awaited. The opposition alliance, led by presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Kemalist CHP, is said to have a real chance of beating incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the AKP. The opposition alliance consists of six very different parties.

Erdoğan is also running as a candidate for an alliance. Polls recently predicted a close race between Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu, with a slight lead for the challenger. If neither of the two achieves an absolute majority in the first ballot in the presidential election, they have to stand in the run-off election in two weeks.

How “worthless” the AKP will actually be after the elections is the question that worries the whole country and is also causing a stir internationally. In the parliamentary elections, the religious conservatives are by no means a nomenclature: survey institutes recently saw the AKP as the strongest force there with values ​​around 30 to 35 percent, followed by the CHP with 28 to 33 percent. Because parliament has been severely weakened since the 2017 constitutional referendum, all eyes are on the presidential election.

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In front of the polling station in Ankara, the mood is pretty clear. It is in the Çankaya district, where the CHP has traditionally outperformed. The sun is shining in the Turkish capital and almost everyone has dressed up for the ballot here. The mood is festive, and people are hopeful that there will be enough for the opposition to win. Three women congratulate each other and, once they have voted, repeat the saying that the CHP Mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoğlu, recently made into a dictum: Her şey güzel olacak – everything will be very nice.

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Polling stations were open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. across the country on Sunday. At the Ahmet Vefik Paşa Middle School in Ankara, the rush in the morning is big. A small line forms in front of the building. A group of police officers stands at the entrance and watches what is happening. Old people struggle up the entrance steps, an elderly woman is driven up by car and then pushed in a wheelchair through a side entrance in the school to the polling booths.

For the first time to choose

But many young people are also coming: on Sunday almost five million young people were allowed to vote in an election for the first time throughout Turkey. At the end of April, CHP candidate Kılıçdaroğlu addressed the first-time voters in a speech that was distributed millions of times and campaigned for a “better life in a free and rich country”.

A young woman, who declined to give her name, comes out of the voting office at another school in Ankara, about two kilometers from Ahmet Vefik Paşa Middle School. She too has voted for the first time and is excited. “It felt good to vote,” she says. The ballot papers are more than two pieces of A4 paper and have to be folded and stuffed into envelopes before they end up in the transparent ballot boxes.

23-year-old Deniz Özcan is a first-time election worker at Kavaklıdere Middle School. She says the crowd is very big and she’s been standing here since the early hours of the morning. She looks forward to counting the votes and announcing the results.

A total of almost 192,000 ballot boxes were set up in Turkey on Sunday. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has been in the country since April 7 with 28 long-term election observers. Around 200 international observers were deployed through the organization on election day. There were also parliamentary observers, also via the Organization for International Cooperation and the Council of Europe.

“We try to be represented all over the country,” the head of the ODIHR mission, Norwegian Ambassador Jan Petersen, said Sunday outside the polling station at Kavaklıdere Middle School in Ankara. “We’re on duty all day and follow the polls as well as the counts and list calculations.” Petersen did not want to comment on the course of the elections or possible discrepancies on election day.

Kılıçdaroğlu also went to vote in Ankara on Sunday. After casting his vote, he said: “I extend my deepest love and respect to all my citizens who have voted and voted. We all missed democracy. From now on you will see that spring will come to this country.”

Erdoğan cast his vote in Istanbul and spoke of an election “without incidents and problems”. “After the count in the evening, we hope for a better future for our country, our nation and Turkish democracy,” said the incumbent president.

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