Turkish migrants in Europe have voted in high numbers in Turkey’s constitutional referendum amid diplomatic tensions between Ankara and European capitals.
In Germany, where nearly 1.4 million Turkish citizens were eligible to vote, more than 697,000 went to the polls between March 27 and April 9, according to figures compiled by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party.
The voter turnout increased by 8 points to 48.7 percent, compared with the vote in Germany for Turkey’s early elections in November 2015. The turnout was less than 10 percent in the 2014 presidential election.
In France, Netherlands, Austria and other European countries with large Turkish communities, the voter turnout also slightly increased.
Zafer Sirakaya, president of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), one of the most influential Turkish diaspora organizations in Europe, said the voter turnout had increased despite moves by several European countries to block Turkish campaign rallies before the vote, and provocations by some outlawed and terrorist groups.
“We have witnessed threats, harassment and intimidation, all aimed at preventing voters from casting their ballots,” Sirakaya told Anadolu Agency on Monday.
“Despite all these attempts, our citizens have shown great interest and voted in high numbers,” he added.
Sirakaya said followers of the terrorist PKK group had threatened Turkish citizens in several countries and even resorted to physical violence against members of Yes campaign during the voting period.
Turkish voters in Germany casted their ballots amid a heated debate in the country over Turkey’s proposed presidential system plus recent tensions between Ankara and Berlin.
Last month, some local authorities in Germany banned rallies by Turkish ministers campaigning for a Yes vote.
Several German politicians have publicly campaigned against the proposed presidential system, drawing sharp criticism from Ankara which accused them of interfering in Turkey's internal affairs.
The April 16 referendum in Turkey addresses a host of constitutional reforms that would hand wide-ranging executive powers to the president.
The post of prime minister would be abolished and the president would also be allowed to retain ties to a political party.
Other changes include the minimum age of parliamentary candidates getting reduced to 18 and the number of deputies increased to 600.