Voters abroad and issue of representation

Turkish people living abroad have cast their votes in a Turkish election for the second time.
The voter turnout for the presidential election was low at 8 percent, which raised some discussions. The turnout increased significantly in this election, indicating that the appointment system was a major problem. The turnout was 36 percent for the parliamentary election, which is still low, but voter turnout abroad will never be as high as it is in Turkey due to the inherent obstacles. For instance, the ballot box may be miles away from the voter. Yet, the low turnout in Berlin, where transportation is more convenient, suggests other problems. Even though they pay attention to the elections in Turkey, people in Berlin and Hamburg did not experience the election atmosphere. Moreover, the problems facing Turkish expats were not discussed during the election campaigns. I believe only Deputy Prime Minister Bandulent Arinandc was able to make his voice heard abroad when he delivered some speeches to attract support for the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The amount of money to be paid in return for exemption from military service, he said, would be reduced to 1,000 euros — a promise that attracted a great deal of attention.
Another factor that affected the voter turnout rate was the issue of representation. Expat voters did not have a specific candidate to vote for as they were aware they would not be represented. For this reason, they cast their votes based on their affinity with a certain political party. The election results confirm this: the AKP received 519,473 votes (49.88 percent) and the Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) 211,299 (20.28 percent), doing much better than they did in Turkey. The Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) performed poorly, receiving 179,227 (17.21 percent) and 96,399 (9.25 percent) respectively. The results for the CHP and the MHP can be attributed to a lack of grassroots organizations. The National Outlook movement has worked for the AKP, particularly in mosques, a factor that had a great impact on voter turnout.
I should note that over 1 million voters casting their ballots without having a specific candidate is not democratic or functional. Thanks to the votes cast abroad, Kerem Ali Sandurekli from Izmir, Sait Yanduce from Amasya and Ali Haydar Konca from Kocaeli became deputies. The AKP won two seats and the HDP one, whereas the MHP lost two and the CHP one because of the expat votes. This is how the 1 million votes cast abroad affected the overall results in Turkey. Is this not a little bit funny? These deputies will not represent the people abroad and they will not be aware of their problems at all. Also, the high number of votes for the HDP can be attributed to the candidates. Feleknaz Uca, even though she speaks Turkish poorly, is a renowned figure in Germany. And the nomination of the chair of the Alevi Foundations Federation on the HDP candidacy list might have been another major factor.
If we want expat Turks to go to the ballot boxes, we have to ensure that they will have specific candidates who will represent these voters and attend to their problems. For instance, 1 million people in Antalya are represented by 14 deputies in Parliament. So the expat voters should have this sort of representation as well. A quota in proportion to the turnout rate may be a solution. We can refer to the practice of France and Italy over the last decades. Our universities (Galatasaray University or the Turkish-German University)an hold seminars to inform the politicians on such practices.
Let me finish with an interesting observation. The expat voters are no different from the voters in Turkey. They are clever in their choices. They prefer a fairly different tactic in German elections. In Germany, 70 percent of the Turks there vote for the Social Democrats (SPD), a party similar to the CHP and 20 percent pick the Green Party, which receives 10 percent of the vote from Germans. And the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a conservative party similar to the AKP, receives no votes from Turks. Let us assume that those who vote for the Green Party prefer the HDP. Why would the SPD voters not pick the CHP but instead prefer the AKP? Perhaps, the attitude of the Green Party and the SPD on discriminatory practices is a major factor, but it is not the only one. Maybe it is because of social issues. Interesting, is not it?
Turkey started a fairly positive process by recognizing Turkish expatsand’ right to vote, but let us not forget that the right to fair representation is a constitutional right.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman