Over 50 million Turkish citizens to vote in tense ballot

Photo: Over 50 million Turkish citizens to vote in tense ballot / Turkey

More than 50 million Turkish people go to the polls to vote in the local elections on March 30, amid security concerns raised from both the government and the opposition, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

The Higher Election Board (YSK) has announced that a total of 52,695,831 people are eligible for voting, at a total of 177,044 polling stations.

Voting starts at 7 a.m. in the eastern provinces of Turkey and will end at 4 p.m. In western Turkey, voting will be between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

People will vote for the mayors and administrators of district and provincial municipalities, as well as provincial city council members.

More than 48 million people will vote in urban polling stations, while 3 million are registered to vote in their villages.

There are a total of 8,794,284 voters in Istanbul, while Turkish capital Ankara has 3,224,687 voters and İzmir has 2,787,874 voters.

However, the run-up to this election has transformed March 30 into more than just a local poll. After last year's nationwide Gezi Park protests and the corruption probe that went public on Dec. 17, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cast this election as a crucial referendum on his government.

Thirty of the 81 provinces of Turkey are administered by Metropolitan Municipalities, and the race is likely to be more heated in them, especially in cities like Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Antalya and Diyarbakır, which hold numeric and symbolic significance for the central power.

Apart from the highly coveted metropolitan mayoral seats, winning districts is crucial as well: Istanbul has 39 districts in total and Ankara has 25.

Voices from across Turkey's political spectrum have expressed concern about the security of the polls. Prime Minister Erdoğan himself claimed that the opposition would "try any tricks to alter the results," while Family and Social Policies Minister Ayşenur İslam has likened the job of poll officials to that of the bowmen in the Battle of Uhud in 625 A.D., when the Muslims defeated the pre-Islamic Meccans.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has assigned party members for each and every ballot box in the country during in order to ultimately compare its own results with the official results to be announced by Turkey's top election authority.

The CHP has developed a system that is entirely independent of the Computer Supported Central Voter Registry System (SEÇSİS) used by the Supreme Election Board (YSK), CHP Deputy Chair Emrehan Halıcı told Anadolu Agency on March 28.

"CHP staff will enter results onto our own computer systems about all of the almost 200,000 ballot boxes. These results will be compared one to one with results to be announced by the YSK. Each ballot box will be compared one by one. If there is a discrepancy or mistake, objection within the 48 hours allowed by law and correction of these mistakes will be made possible," said Halıcı, an expert on computer technology-based projects, while noting that in addition to the 200,000 CHP staff, some 300,000 informatics volunteers will also be involved with the observation of the ballot boxes.

Tens of thousands of people from all over the country have also signed up to work voluntarily to oversee the vote counting, in a previously unseen participation in the elections.

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