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YSK backs down on reduction of voting days in countries where Kılıçdaroğlu leads Erdoğan

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Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has acquiesced to an objection filed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to its recent move to reduce the number of days citizens are allowed to cast votes in countries where the opposition’s Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu led President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by a wide margin in the presidential election on May 14.

Election officials announced on Monday that Turkey’s presidential election would be decided in a runoff on May 28 since neither Kılıçdaroğlu nor Erdoğan was able to secure 50 percent of the vote plus one additional vote needed for election to president in the first round.

According to the unofficial results, Erdoğan received 49.51 percent of the vote, while Kılıçdaroğlu garnered 44.88 percent.

CHP Deputy Chairman Muharrem Erkek on Tuesday announced in a tweet that the YSK had acquiesced to their objection to the reduction of voting days in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom, adding that Turks in these countries will be able to cast their votes from May 20 to May 24.

The CHP’s appeal came after many expatriates raised the issue on social media, saying the YSK had restricted voting days to two in countries where Kılıçdaroğlu received 79 or 80 percent of the vote and where Erdoğan only garnered between 16 and 18 percent, while the voting period remained four or five days in other countries where Turks favored Erdoğan over his rival.

“They have reduced the voting period for the second round from four days to two, as 80 percent of voters in the United States favored Kılıçdaroğlu,” Turkish journalist Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and Global Opinions columnist at The Washington Post, said in a tweet.

Professor Emre Kongar also quoted a Turkish expatriate as saying that they only have May 20 and 21 to vote in the runoff in the US and Canada due to the YSK’s decision aimed at “hindering” high voter turnout in those countries.

“Turkish voters in the US are being told they get 2 days to vote in the second round. US Turks voted 80 percent for Kılıçdaroğlu. Other opposition-voting countries also reportedly have the same restriction. AKP voting countries get 5 days. That is not a fair playing field at all,” Twitter user Can Okar said, adding that the reduction in voting days was “a pretty clear example of voter suppression.”

Hümeyra Pamuk, a senior foreign policy reporter for Reuters based in Washington, said the YSK decision was “peculiar” since it could directly impact voting behavior in a large country like the US.

“There were people who traveled for hours from city to city to vote in the first round. How will this journey be accommodated within just two days?” Pamuk added.

Election security has been a significant concern in Turkey, with various issues arising during past elections. One of the main concerns involves the potential political interference in the operations of the YSK and the state-run Anadolu news agency, which could affect the fairness and transparency of elections as well as the announcement of results.

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