Economy is priority for Turkish voters returning to polls in Qatar

Residents in Gulf nation hope diaspora will make a difference

A woman casts her ballot at the Turkish embassy in Doha. AFP
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Turkish voters in Doha headed to their country's embassy once again to cast their ballots in one of the most critical election races in its modern history.

Voting for the run-off election took place at the embassy in Qatar between Saturday and Monday.

The election ended in uncertainty on May 15 as neither incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan nor his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu won more than half of the votes cast.

“Even though we are away from home, there are several factors that we thought about while making our decision. But most importantly, we saw what our country needs,” said Sami, 36, who lives in Qatar.

“All Turkish people want the country’s economy to improve. That is our priority.”

Sami and his wife also voted in the first round of the polls at the beginning of the month. Over 10,000 Turkish voters in Qatar cast their votes at the time.

Critical choice

On May 28, voters in Turkey will be asked to choose between Mr Erdogan, who has been in power for 20 years, and opposition leader Mr Kilicdaroglu.

A business consultant in Doha, who did not wish to be named, listed the country’s economic situation among the primary factors in deciding her vote.

“Where we are located makes no difference,” said the 46-year-old, who has been in Doha for the past three years. “The decision of who to vote for is not an emotional one, it is practical. It is based on the economic situation of the country. The inflation rate has increased incredibly and it needs to be fixed.

“Democratic vision and a secular ideology are also crucial factors.

“Voting abroad has helped. Turkish people are very active voters and even the diaspora has found a way to exercise their right to vote. What happens eventually, that we will wait and see.”

The resident Turks in Qatar both agree that voting by the Turkish diaspora will have a significant effect.

Ozge, 43, cast her vote for the second time from Doha too.

“In 2018, the number of diaspora voters in Qatar was around 3,000 and now it is over 10,000. That is a substantial number,” she said.

A voter in Doha arrives to cast her ballot in the Turkish run-off election. AFP

“Whoever wins, what I hope to see in the new regime is good governance, better co-operation and decision-making on matters of the economy, and an effective parliament which deliberates on policies,” said Ozge, who has been in Doha for nine months.

“Ensuring justice and rule of law is also important.”

The first round saw a record 88.92 per cent voting in Turkey, with more than three million people having voted from abroad at overseas diplomatic missions and airport customs.

Experts have said that diaspora votes will play an “important role” in the elections.

Dr Ebru Turhan, an associate professor at the Turkish-German University in Istanbul, told The National earlier this month that the influence the diaspora had on Turkey's 2017 constitutional referendum was substantial.

“The voting preferences of the Turkish diaspora … played a pivotal role in the referendum race which was won by the ‘yes’ camp by a very close margin.”

Ankara has said diaspora voter turnout has surpassed that of 2018, with at least 200,000 new voters in the diaspora eligible to go to the polls this year.

Updated: May 23, 2023, 12:24 PM