Turkish election: How did Turks in Europe vote? Was it for Erdoğan or Kılıçdaroğlu?

FILE: Election worker holds a ballot depicting a vote for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, CHP, at a polling station, 14 May 2023
FILE: Election worker holds a ballot depicting a vote for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, CHP, at a polling station, 14 May 2023 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Joshua Askew
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Turkey's president defied expectations and saw off his rival in Sunday's elections. But how did the country's large European diaspora vote?

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Turkish elections are set to head a second round, after Sunday night's result. 

Despite successive polls putting him ahead, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu - the incumbent president's main rival - secured some 45% of the vote, with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan receiving 49% - 1% under the threshold needed to win the race outright. 

More than 5 million people of Turkish descent 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 inside Turkey. 

In some places - like the Baltic states and Belarus - the first-ever polling stations for Turkish citizens were opened up, spreading political rivalries to newfangled frontiers.

"There were not many surprises in the diaspora vote," Paul Levin Director of Stockholm University's Institute for Turkish Studies, told Euronews. "Erdogan remained strong in Germany and France as he did in 2018."

Home to the largest Turkish diaspora, more than 700,000 votes were cast in Germany, with some %66 going to Erdogan (462,000), 33% for Kılıçdaroğlu (230,000) and 1% to Sinan Oğan, leader of the ultra-nationalist MHP (9,000). 

"Turkish-origin Germans continue to vote to the left in German elections but conservative at home," said Levin.

In France, which has the second-largest Turkish diaspora, Erdoğan also gained the lion's share of the votes at (64%). 

Earlier this month, brawls broke out between Turks at voting stations in France, with police officers using tear gas to prevent violence. 

"Over-all Erdogan does well in the foreign vote, which therefore remains important for him, especially in close elections," Levin told Euronews.

However, the results across Europe were polarised, with Kılıçdaroğlu dominating in the UK, southern and eastern Europe, Finland, Sweden and the Balkans. 

The leader of the CHP secure 80% of the vote in Lithuania, where a small community of Turks was casting their ballot inside the country for the first time. 

Turkish immigrants in Lithuania tend to be younger, university educated and more supportive of the opposition, compared to the more established Turkish communities in other parts of mainland Europe. However, many still do back Erdoğan.

Speaking to Euronews last week, an observer of the vote Onur Can Varoğlu said: “Turkish politics is like football, you are born with your team and will support it no matter what.”

“It doesn't matter if you come to Europe. If you are from a nationalist, Islamist background or a more pro-European immigrant one, you bring these values with you,” he said, suggesting family values were ultimately behind how Turks voted. 

Newer communities of Turkish immigrants in Poland and Estonia voted overwhelmingly in favour of the opposition at 85% and 91% respectively.

In the UK, Erdoğan only received 18% of the vote, with Turkish Cypriots, the Alevis religious minority and Kurds forming the majority of this sizeable community. Most fled amid periods of political turmoil and violence back home, according to the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research

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A total 64,000 votes were cast at polling stations in London, Manchester and Leicester, and Edinburgh. This was roughly half the 127,000 British Turks eligible to vote. 

There was more of an even split in Sweden, with 53% of voters for Kılıçdaroğlu and 44% for Erdogan. 

Turkey's president "got almost exactly the same share of the vote in Sweden as in the last election", said Levin. 

The presence of Erdoğan's political opponents in Sweden has created issues for Stockholm, creating a rift with Ankara and helping frustrate its NATO bid.

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