Turkey says 30,000 Syrians eligible to vote in election

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said thousands have been granted citizenship

A Syrian refugee mother puts her baby to stroller in Nizip refugee camp, near the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep province, Turkey, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RC11925C4BE0
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Thirty thousand Syrians who have been granted Turkish citizenship will vote in Sunday's presidential and parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was quoted as saying on Tuesday by broadcaster NTV.

“They have the right to vote but I do not know how many of them will use that right. They are our guests and they will return to their country,” the prime minister said.

He said that Syrians who have received Turkish citizenship "must obey the Turkish law", according to Turkish daily Hurriyet.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has granted citizenship to thousands of refugees who have fled the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Turkey is hosting around 3.5 million Syrian refugees.

The Hurriyet newspaper and other media said Mr Yildirim made the comments Tuesday in the city of Izmir.

Turkey announced in 2016 that it would begin granting citizenship to Syrians. Many of the Syrian refugees who reside in the country mainly live in the southeast and Istanbul, Turkey's largest city. Critics of Turkey's refugee policy say that it lacks a strategy to deal with their long-term presence.

Mr Erdogan, whose administration has supported Syria's moderate rebel groups, has railed against the rule of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, calling for a transition of power after seven years of civil war.

Meanwhile, voting at Turkish diplomatic missions abroad for expatriate Turks ends Tuesday, with orange sealed bags carrying votes already arriving in Turkey. Voting at border gates and airports will continue until all polls close Sunday afternoon.

The country's official Anadolu news agency said 41 percent of the more than 3 million registered expatriate voters have cast their ballots so far.

Mr Erdogan on Sunday faces the biggest ballot box challenge of his 15-year grip on Turkey, seeking to overcome a revitalised opposition against the background of an increasingly troubled economy.

The vote takes place almost two years after the failed coup aimed at ousting Erdogan from power, a watershed in its modern history which prompted Turkey to launch the biggest purge of recent times under a state of emergency that remains in place.