Turkish town may change outcome of Swedish polls

Turkish town may change outcome of Swedish polls

A small town in central Turkey may ultimately determine the outcome of Swedish elections when polls abroad open on Aug. 16 for the September elections.

Kulu, located some 113 kilometers south of the capital Ankara, is believed to be where most Turks living in the Nordic country originated from after the flow of migrants started in 1965. Now, 50,000 people originally from Kulu live in Sweden, and the town has 20,000 people eligible to vote. Ballot boxes will be set up in the honorary consulate of Sweden in the town, while some candidates of Turkish descent have already visited the town for their election campaigns.

Ballot boxes were brought to Kulu in 2014 for the first time as most residents living in Sweden return to their hometowns for holidays. For candidates of Turkish descent, garnering votes from Kulu is important. Although nominated from different parties and different constituencies, Mikail Yüksel, Muharrem Demirok and Sultan Kayhan are all from Kulu. Yüksel, who was nominated from the Center Party, from Gothenburg, is running an election campaign in the town. The 36-year-old, who migrated to Sweden in 2001, worked his way up in Swedish politics very quickly.

"The turnout of Turkish voters in elections is around 15 percent, but if this significantly increases, it can change the fate of the elections. People are more interested in the Turkish elections, but if the turnout increases, their lives in Sweden would be better," Yüksel said. He points to the high rate of unemployment among migrants in Sweden and not pursuing higher education among those populations as major sources of problems and pledges to end these trends.