Referendum divides Turkish expats

Referendum divides Turkish expats

Turkish expatriates voted in Jeddah last week in their nation’s key referendum. – Courtesy photo

By Irfan Mohammed
Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The Turkish expatriate community in the Kingdom has expressed mixed reaction for a proposed sweeping constitutional changes introduced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey on Sunday announced the voting results of referendum on constitutional changes as 51.2 percent voted in favor. The polling was held in Jeddah and Riyadh along with other countries in abroad earlier than home. However, results were announced Sunday after voting was completed in Turkey.

In Saudi Arabia, Turkish expatriates were divided as 58.34 percent opted for ‘NO’ while 41.66 percent voted for ‘YES’, according to the results declared by authorities in Ankara, said community sources.

In Jeddah and the Western Region, 67.39 percent of polled votes favored the constitutional changes and 32.6 percent said ‘NO’, while in Riyadh 65.84 percent opted for ‘NO’ votes and 341.4 percent voters said ‘YES’, said sources.

The participation of Turkish community in the referendum in Jeddah was high as compared to Riyadh. In Jeddah, 5,251 people cast their votes while in Riyadh 3,071 Turkish expatriates chose to have a say.

The total registered voters in Kingdom are 25,743. About 30 percent votes polled is significant and it reflects the Turkish expatriates’ interest in the affairs back home, according to leading community activist Enver Yilmaz.

Due to slowdown in economic activities in the market, many Turks were not present in the Kingdom, said Mustafa Baklaki, a leading Turkish expatriate community leader and longtime resident.

Turkish expatriate community actively participated in the campaign in the run-up to the poll.

Unlike in European and North American countries, the Turkish expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries had different opinion.
For first time in 2014 presidential elections Turkish expatriates were allowed to cast their votes abroad.

AKP, led by President Erdogan, is paying special focus on Turkish expatriates. It not only granted its citizens the right to vote in election but also opened a special agency dedicated to the needs of Turkish expatriates.