Turks who renounce citizenship might be able to vote in upcoming elections

February 27, 2012, Monday/ 17:04:00/ ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ

Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission has referred to a sub-commission a bill that aims to allow Turks who give up their citizenship to vote in upcoming elections.

The bill, which introduces an amendment to the elections and electoral registries law and several other laws, will both regulate how Turkish citizens living in foreign countries can cast their votes and addresses challenges with the Blue Card, which functions as a quasi-passport for those who have renounced their Turkish citizenship to gain citizenship in another country.

Speaking at negotiation sessions, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ pointed out some of the problems concerning the current Blue Card practice: “According to the current practice, when giving up Turkish citizenship, a person, his or her current spouse and their children are able to obtain a Blue Card. However, the children that are born after and grandchildren are not able to obtain a Blue Card. Since many transactions are done with a Turkish Republic ID number, those who do not have an ID number are experiencing many problems. Now, we will establish a registry for Blue Card holders in order to eliminate this problem.”

Bozdağ also underlined that Turkish citizens living in Europe and elsewhere will be able to cast votes at Turkish missions abroad in presidential election to be held in 2014. “We are working to remove obstacles in front of Turkish citizens living abroad so they can take part in elections. Voting hours would create a problem. To prevent this, ballot boxes at Turkish diplomatic missions abroad would be open for 24 hours during the elections, or voters would cast their votes by getting an appointment from the relevant missions. We want to design a flexible system,” he said.

The participation of Turkish expatriates in the general elections on June 12, 2011, was low -- 5 percent -- as current law allows them to cast their votes only at customs gates. The new bill will introduce several options, including electronic vote-casting, voting by mail, voting at ballot boxes at embassies or consulates and voting at customs gates.

Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission Chairman Burhan Kuzu noted that the government introduced new legislation in 2008 to make it easier for Turkish expatriates to exercise their right to vote, but the legislation could not be implemented. Underlining that voting by mail was included in the 2008 legislation, Kuzu added: “The Constitutional Court canceled the legal provision that allowed Turkish citizens living in foreign countries to cast their votes by mail. The bill will also change the dual-citizenship regulations. The bill aims to solve many problems by providing a Blue Card number to Turkish citizens living abroad.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies in the commission who previously opposed the bill’s 2008 version and took it to the Constitutional Court have taken a positive stance on the new bill. CHP Konya Deputy Atilla Kart stated that preventing Turkish citizens living abroad from voting at embassies or consulates in their countries of residence is a deficiency, and he added that these amendments will be an important step as they will allow them to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Sub-commission Chairman Şuay Alpay said: “The current law causes tangible and intangible harm to Turkish citizens living abroad. The new bill will allow Turkish citizens living abroad to vote in Turkish elections from the countries in which they are currently residing. The number of ballot boxes placed at consulates will be determined by considering number of voters living in those countries. For instance, Germany, where 1.3 million Turks live, we would determine two or three electoral districts. The elections will be held under the supervision of judges. The sub-commission will submit its report to the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission within a week. I hope the bill will be enacted by the middle of March. There are nearly 2.5 million Turks registered abroad. For proper democratic representation, we should ensure that each citizen is able to carry out his most basic duties. Removing the barriers that prevent its citizens from voting is a requirement of being a great country.

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