Voting ends in local elections across Turkey, counting process starts
Millions of Turkish citizens on March 31 flocked to ballot boxes across the country to elect metropolitan municipality and district mayors, neighborhood heads, and members of provincial and district councils. More than 57 million voters were eligible to take part in the elections.
The voting in eastern and some Black Sea provinces started at 7 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m., while in the remaining provinces, polling stations opened at 8 a.m. and closed at 5.00 p.m.
Citizens in the eastern provinces braved harsh weather conditions to reach the polling stations.
Locals in the southeastern province of Hakkari were blocked by an avalanche which dumped snow on a road 30 kilometers from Yüksekova district. Citizens who had embarked on the trip in their cars to reach the polling stations were unable to move further on the road. But determined to cast their ballots, they went on foot.
Patients in hospitals or receiving home care services were taken to polling stations, while mobile ballot boxes reached the ill unable to travel to polling booths.
Mehmet Aydın from the eastern province of Van was one of the oldest voters to travel to the polling station. The 98-year-old said he was happy to fulfill his duty. “I have seen many elections. And I went again to cast my vote to fulfill my duty,” Aydın told reporters.
Sultan and Hamit Kahraman, a young couple, spared time to cast their ballots in the southern province of Hatay, hours before their wedding ceremony.
Election day also witnessed colorful scenes in some places. In the Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, a man went to the polling station dressed as an Ottoman janissary band member. “I wanted to raise awareness by casting my vote this way. I believe that the future generation should not forget their ancestors. I wanted to be an example for the youth with my behavior,” İlhan Kılıçtaş told reporters.
Meanwhile, as schools turned into polling stations, the Education Ministry assured that those which are affiliated to it will resume as usual the day after the elections, on April 1.
Reporters also caught celebrities casting their votes on cameras. The co-partner of Turkey’s global Nusr-et chain of grill houses, Nusret Gökçe, a social media phenomenon who reached worldwide fame for his way of marinating meat, voted in Istanbul.
Gökçe shared a photo of him casting his vote into the ballot box with his salt-drizzling move on social media, along with a caption reading “for a powerful Turkey.”
Meanwhile, many of the police officers normally on duty in Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport were deployed for one day to areas where the polling stations are, however, causing a staff shortage at the airport. Long queues were formed at passport control, with some passengers having faced risks of missing their flights.
A total of 12 political parties competed in the local elections.
March 31 is the first local election to take place under the new presidential system, adopted in the April 2017 referendum.
The previous local elections were held in 2014.