Turkey organises busloads of AKP supporters to vote in Bulgaria

A Turkish bus arrives in the Bulgarian city of Kardjali. [Footage from bTV channel]

The Bulgarian public channel bTV released footage of busloads of Turkish nationals of Bulgarian origin, coming to their country of birth to vote in the 24 June elections.

The presidential and parliamentary elections will take place under a state of emergency that has been in place since an attempted coup against President Erdoğan in July 2016.

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Three million expatriate Turks are allowed to vote, including 1.4 million in Germany, but Turkish campaigning was banned in some EU countries. Last May, Erdoğan went on a controversial election rally in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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In Bulgaria, the vote for the Turkish elections is already taking place. Turkish media reported that Turks can vote at the border crossing points. Three voting sections have reportedly been opened at Kapıkule and one at the Hamzaneyli border crossing points with Bulgaria.

In recent days, a number of busses have arrived in Bulgaria from Turkey, in addition to the 12 regular lines. 360,000 Bulgarian ethnic Turks were expelled from the country in 1989, in the months before the fall of communism. Today most of them regularly return to their birthplaces for religious holidays, such as Iftar, the last day of Ramadan.

bTV released footage of bus arrivals from Turkey in the Bulgarian city of Kardjali. People interviewed said they came both for Iftar, which they call Bayram, and to vote. They said they would return by Friday. Asked by a reporter if there is pressure on the Bulgarian Turks to vote for a particular candidate, an elderly man named Emin said “I don’t know about the others, I will vote for Erdoğan”.

It seems likely that the plan of the voting excursions to Bulgaria is to give organised Erdoğan supporters the chance to vote twice, which would constitute election fraud. The law allows Turkish expatriates to vote abroad in the days ahead of the elections, but not to vote a second time in Turkey.

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