The Supreme Election Board (YSK) has agreed to install ballot boxes at Turkish diplomatic missions abroad in a move to allow for 3.5 million Turkish expatriates to vote in national elections.
Overseas Turks Agency (TYB) Chairman Kemal Yurtnaç said the agency had drafted the bill with the YSK. “Our citizens have not been able to cast votes at embassies and consulates for years. We have prepared a draft bill in cooperation with the YSK,” he said.
The Cabinet subsequently approved the draft bill to put ballot boxes in diplomatic missions.
In an interview with Today's Zaman, YSK Deputy Director General Ayhan Okurer said the bill was submitted to the YSK and that the board agreed to the implementation of the new system of putting ballot boxes at diplomatic missions.
The bill is expected to be passed by Parliament.
With the new system, Turkish citizens who live abroad will be able to cast votes at Turkish consulates and embassies. The voting will begin one month before election day in Turkey. Each voter will be given a date to visit the relevant mission and vote in an effort to avoid large crowds at the missions. A special registration system will be set up for these voters. Political parties will be able to follow the voting process in the missions if they wish. The ballot boxes will later be taken to Turkey and counted in the presence of political party and YSK observers.
Before every national election, Turks living abroad came to the country to vote or voted at the airport. Turks in neighboring countries would come to customs gates in order to cast their votes. Since the YSK did not place ballot boxes outside the country, only some 129,000 voters submitted their votes in the general elections on June 12, 2011 while about 2,4 million citizens did not cast votes. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan back then criticized the YSK, calling the board's decision of not putting ballot boxes at overseas missions “sabotage.”
Kyrgyz-Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association Chairman Hüseyin Muslu said the new system will pave the way for the association to support democracy in Turkey more strongly. While noting that the YSK was hindering democracy with the soon-to-be former regulation of not having ballot boxes abroad, Muslu added that he is happy to hear the YSK is willing to eliminate the regulation. The president of the Turkish Businessmen Association (TİAD) in Bucharest, Ömer Süsli, said the YSK's support for the draft bill is a positive development, adding that voters will be no longer have to spend time and money to go to Turkey to vote.