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Anger and confusion over Turkish referendum deadline

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Abdurrahman Bilgiç, Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, voting as an expatriate in the 2015 general election

Expatriates vent their anger at consulate over electoral commission’s election registration process

Turkish citizens in Britain were given 18 hours’ notice to register to vote in April’s executive presidency referendum this week, triggering anger and confusion.

In an announcement published on Tuesday evening, the Turkish Consulate in London said unregistered citizens had until 1pm the following afternoon to put their names down for the referendum.

Turkish expatriates must give notice of their address when they move by sending a one-page form to the consulate. Those who complete this step, which can be done at any time of year, are then placed on the overseas electoral roll.

The announcement was shared over a hundred times on Facebook and attracted dozens of angry and confused replies on Facebook.

Abbas Balta wrote: “How do you expect people to register in such a short time, when their homes are scattered far away from the consulate. The time is too short.”

Mert Gurel added: “I handed my documents into the post, they said it would reach the consulate before one o’clock tomorrow. But if the postman takes a cigarette break on the way my application won’t be valid.”

Appeals process

The Turkish Consulate in London said the short deadline was not an internal deadline but one set by Turkey’s Electoral Commission, the YSK.

Long-term Turkish residents in the UK who have visited the Turkish Consulate in recent years – to renew their passport, for example – are likely to already be registered on the electoral roll.

The YSK will activate a service on its website at 5am UK time on Saturday morning that will allow expatriates to check whether they are registered on the overseas electoral roll.

Any Turkish citizen who finds a mistake in their registration will have until 26 February to file an appeal, although these must be made at the consulate building in person.

New powers for president

A referendum on proposals to grant sweeping new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be held in Turkey on Sunday 16 April.

Abdurrahman Bilgiç, Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, said in an interview with Haber newspaper this week that registered Turkish expatriates in the UK will most likely be able to vote over a four-day period the previous week, between 6-9 April.

The venue and precise timings for UK voting have yet to be finalised.

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