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Turkish diaspora voters head to polls in Germany

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Turkish diaspora voters head to polls in Germany
A man casts his vote at a polling station at the Turkish consulate general in Hürth, western Germany. Photo: Oliver Berg / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT

Polling stations opened Thursday in Germany for the roughly 1.5 million registered Turkish voters living in the European country, the largest diaspora participating in Turkey's most pivotal election in decades.

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Turkish citizens living in Germany, many of them the descendants of "guest workers" invited under a massive economic programme in the 1960s and 70s, have until May 9th to cast ballots at 26 centres across the country, the YSK electoral commission said.

Polls ahead of the May 14th parliamentary and presidential vote show President Recep Tayyip Erdogan running neck-and-neck or behind opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Erdogan, 69, is confronting public anger over a raging economic crisis and the government's delayed response to a February earthquake in which more than 50,000 died.

READ ALSO: Turkish community in Germany gathers to help earthquake victims

Meanwhile inflation in the country is running at 50.5 percent and the currency is in freefall, making the cost of living hard to bear for most Turks.

Many Turkish voters turning out in Germany said the time had come for new leadership.

"I am here because Turkey is in a quite terrible situation right now. The economy is terrible, terrorism is the same," Kutay Yilmaz, 29, said at a Berlin polling station.

"I want to return (to Turkey) one day. That's why I came here today and voted. I want the leader to change."

Nihan Kol, a 30-year-old accountant who has lived in Germany since 2017, also said she was looking for a "change for the better" in Turkey.

"So many terrible things have happened in recent years but the earthquake was a real catastrophe. I think the earthquake will play a critical role in the results," Kol said.

READ ALSO: Turks in Germany hope for citizenship law overhaul

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However Mehmet Yasar Cakir, 67, said he was "not unsatisfied" with Erdogan and noted the veteran leader had also chalked up successes while in power.

"It's not 100 percent good or bad -- of course there are good things that he did, for example in the social welfare system which is highly developed in Turkey," he said.

A spokesman for the Turkish Community of Germany (TSD) told AFP the election was a "huge issue" for both Turkish citizens and German nationals of Turkish origin and expected a high turnout.

The last Turkish national elections saw about 50 percent participation among eligible voters in Germany, with support higher for Erdogan than in Turkey itself according to exit polls.

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