Ankara: A record number of Turkish nationals living abroad have cast their ballots for the upcoming general elections.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Supreme Election Board said in a statement that over 1.75 million Turks have cast their ballots overseas or at border cross-points, while the highest turnout recorded previously was 1.35 million, reports Xinhua news agency.
Diaspora voting took place from April 27 to May 9 in 73 countries where Turkish diplomatic missions serve.
Voters in Turkey on May 14 will elect the President and 600 MPs for a five-year term.
The votes of some 3.4 million eligible overseas nationals will be weighed in a tight race predicted by surveys.
According to two recent polls by Metropoll and Optimar, incumbent conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aged 69, and his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, 74, the leader of the opposition, almost run neck-and-neck.
A majority of the Turkish diaspora lives in Western Europe, especially Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Belgium, where Turkish workers settled in great numbers in the 1960s.
In previous elections, Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), boasted strong support among Turkish voters in Europe.
In a message to external voters on April 29, Erdogan said he expected them to “hurry to the polls and make history on May 14”.
The preferences of the Turkish diaspora could be decisive for the top two candidates if they want to get more than 50 per cent support in the first round of voting, and avoid a run-off at the end of the month, Ankara-based pollster MAK Center For Social Research, said.
Before 2014, Turks abroad who wanted to participate in elections had to return to the country to vote.
Over the years, Erdogan has implemented legal measures to ensure that expatriate Turks be able to vote abroad and their participation in the electoral process gradually increased as more polling stations have been set up across Europe.
In the 2018 presidential elections, he received nearly 60 per cent of the overseas votes after campaigning in critical countries such as Germany which hosts nearly 1.5 million Turkish voters.
According to experts, the Turkish diaspora in Europe tends to support and vote for conservative political figures.