BERLIN — Turkish citizens living abroad started casting votes Thursday in Turkey's snap presidential and parliamentary elections, amid sharp divisions of opinion over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's record.
Voting for the June 24 elections began at airports and border gates in Turkey as well as in Turkish diplomatic missions in 60 countries. The expatriate polls close on June 19.
Some 3 million expatriate Turks are eligible to vote in the elections that are being held more than a year earlier than scheduled. Nearly half of them — 1.4 million — live in Germany, where polling stations have been set up in 13 cities.
The elections will usher in a new executive presidency that concentrates more powers in the president's hands and abolishes the office of the prime minister. The switch was narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
Last year's referendum results were more comfortable for Erdogan in Germany, with some 63 percent voting in favor.
At the Turkish consulate in Berlin, Seydi, a 49-year-old who has lived in Berlin for 38 years and would only give his first name, said Erdogan has "done a lot, things that have never been done before."
"Since Erdogan is there, there is some order," he said. "Many say it is a dictatorship, but it's not a dictatorship. He is thinking of his people, no matter if it's Kurds, Turks, no matter who lives in Turkey. We all stick together."
Some, however, pointed to Turkey's current economic troubles. The Turkish lira has lost more than 20 percent of its value against the dollar since the start of the year, hurting many in the country.
Guner Bayer, the owner of a strawberry stand at a Berlin market, said that "there should be some change"
"(Erdogan) away, a new one would be better," she said. "We have seen how everything became a catastrophe — dollar, euro, food."
Ata Kumbasar, a Turkish taxi driver in Frankfurt, said that "here in Germany it is all, or at least very much, pro Erdogan. And I think that here you don't notice so much how the situation in Turkey is." He predicted that, because of the economic situation, the election results "will be relatively tight."
Germany hasn't seen campaigning by Turkish politicians this year. Last year, following a dispute over ministers being blocked from campaigning in Germany and other European Union countries before the referendum, German authorities barred rallies by non-EU politicians in the three months before their countries' elections.