Turks in Germany have streamed into Berlin's Olympic stadium, seizing the chance to vote from abroad for the first time in an election Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes will make him Turkey's first directly-elected president.
Turkey itself goes to the polls on August 10 to choose between Erdogan and two opposition candidates. But expatriates, in the past allowed to vote only within Turkey's borders, are casting their ballots over the next four days. For some Turks who came to Germany decades ago, it will be the first time they will be casting their ballots anywhere, said Safter Cinar of the group Turkish Community in Germany.
Ballots will be cast in Berlin and six other large venues nationwide until Sunday and then flown to Turkey, as will the results from more than 50 other countries, the AFP news agency reported.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade but is barred by party rules from standing for a fourth term as prime minister, has said the direct nature of the vote will imbue the presidency with far greater clout.
Polls suggest he will win the simple majority needed in the first round. Two surveys last month put him on 55-56 percent, a 20-point lead over his nearest rival, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. The diaspora vote will count as never before.
About 2.8 million Turks abroad are eligible to vote, around 1.4 million of them in Germany, a number equivalent to the electorate of Turkey's fifth largest city, Adana.
One million voters are based elsewhere in Europe, with smaller numbers in the US, Asia, Africa and Oceania, the Reuters news agency reported.