Votes of Turkish citizens living abroad who participated in their country’s general election have begun to be sent to Turkey, official sources said Tuesday.
Ballots cast at the Turkish Embassy in Washington and consulates across the U.S. were put on a Turkish Airlines flight Monday night as part of the “diplomatic cargo”.
The entire process was monitored by Turkey’s Ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, and political party representatives to ensure transparency, including the delivery of the sealed bags to diplomatic couriers.
One diplomatic courier was in charge of two bags each, in line with requirements of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board.
Voting for 90,745 eligible voters in the U.S. began on May 16 and concluded at polling stations set up inside Turkish missions Sunday, with at least 17,804 Turkish citizens participating in the process.
The vote count at the U.S. customs was 2,376 on 29 May; however, voting there will continue till Sunday.
Ballots cast at 13 Turkish Consulates in Germany between 8 May and 31 were put on a Turkish Airlines flight Tuesday, after having been stored at the consulate generals in Berlin, Hamburg and Hannover.
A total of 138 sealed bags containing used and unused ballots were put in a container, and placed in the cargo under the supervision of embassy officials and Turkish political party representatives.
Nearly 600,000 out of 1,404,987 Turkish citizens went to the polls in Germany over a 24-day period.
The Turkish Airlines flight carrying the ballots is expected to travel to Stockholm, Copenhagen and London before arriving in Turkey with the ballots from all four countries.
Counting of votes
The votes cast in 54 countries and 112 Turkish missions abroad are expected to arrive in Turkey by Wednesday. When the bags arrive, they will be delivered to a district election committee for voters abroad, escorted by party representatives.
A total of 1,031,917 voters living abroad voted in the general election; polling stations at the embassies and consulates closed Sunday.
However, 33 border crossing ballot boxes will remain open until 5 p.m. local time (1500GMT) on Sunday, after which ballots cast abroad and in Turkey will begin to be counted simultaneously.
Nearly twice as many overseas Turks have turned out to vote in the general election than they did in last August’s presidential election, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday.
Cavusoglu said that 35.98 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots at Turkish missions abroad.
In the presidential election, 18.94 percent of the overseas electorate had voted.
Elections in Turkey have the second-highest voter turnout among developed democracies, according to a report released by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.
More than 84 percent of the electorate went to the polls in the 2011 general election, according to the report comparing turnout rates in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development member states.
The country’s 25th general election will elect 550 members of the Turkish parliament from 20 political parties on 7 June.