The Turkish president defied all expectations and defeated his rival in Sunday’s election. But how did the country’s large European diaspora vote?
Turkey’s elections are set to go to a runoff, following Sunday evening’s results.
Despite successive polls putting him in the lead, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu – the incumbent president’s main rival – received around 45% of the vote, with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan securing 49% – 1% below the threshold needed to win the race.
More … than 5 million people of Turkish origin live in Europe and their votes impacted the results, with each politician having their own regional strongholds.
Around 3.4 million of them are registered to vote abroad, compared to 64 million in Turkey.
In some places, such as the Baltic states and Belarus, the first-ever polling stations for Turkish citizens were opened, spreading political rivalries to the newest borders.
“There weren’t many surprises during the diaspora vote,” Paul Levin Director of Stockholm University Institute of Turkish Studies, told Euronews. “Erdogan remained strong in Germany and France as in 2018.”
Germany, home to the largest Turkish diaspora, received more than 700,000 votes, including 66% for Erdogan (462,000), 33% for Kılıçdaroğlu (230,000) and 1% for Sinan Oğan, leader of the ultranationalist MHP party. (9,000). ).
“Germans of Turkish origin continue to vote left in German elections, but conservative at home,” Levin said.
In France, which has the second largest Turkish diaspora, Erdoğan also won the lion’s share of the vote (64%).
Earlier this month, fights broke out between Turks at polling stations in France, with police using tear gas to prevent violence.
“Overall, Erdogan performs well in foreign voting, so this remains important for him, especially in close elections,” Levin told Euronews.
However, results across Europe were polarized, with Kılıçdaroğlu dominating in the United Kingdom, Southern and Eastern Europe, Finland, Sweden and the Balkans.
The CHP leader obtained 80% of the votes in Lithuania, where for the first time a small community of Turks voted inside the country.
Turkish immigrants to Lithuania tend to be younger, university-educated, and more opposition-friendly than more established Turkish communities in other parts of continental Europe. However, many still support Erdoğan.
Speaking to Euronews last week, vote observer Onur Can Varoğlu said: “Turkish politics is like football, you are born with your team and you will support them no matter what.”
“It doesn’t matter if you come to Europe. If you come from a more pro-European nationalist, Islamist or immigrant background, you bring those values with you,” he said, suggesting that family values were ultimately behind the vote of Turks.
New Turkish immigrant communities in Poland and Estonia voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, 85% and 91% respectively.
In the UK, Erdoğan received only 18% of the vote, with Turkish Cypriots, the Alevi religious minority and Kurds forming the majority of this large community. Most fled their countries amid periods of political unrest and violence, according to the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research.
A total of 64,000 votes were cast at polling stations in London, Manchester, Leicester and Edinburgh. This represented around half of the 127,000 British Turks eligible to vote.
The distribution was more balanced in Sweden, with 53% of voters for Kılıçdaroğlu and 44% for Erdogan.
The Turkish president “got almost exactly the same share of votes in Sweden as in the last election,” Levin said.
The presence of Erdoğan’s political opponents in Sweden has created problems for Stockholm, driving a wedge with Ankara and helping to thwart its NATO bid.