Turks living abroad have begun casting votes in Turkey's first direct presidential elections. It is also the first time expatriate Turks are casting votes in their countries of residence.

Some 2.8 million expatriate Turks — about half of them in Germany — are eligible to participate in the elections although reports say a few hundred thousand have registered to vote. Polls opened in Germany and several other countries on Thursday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the strongest contender in the elections to be held in Turkey on Aug. 10. The former head of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas are also running.

It is the first time Turks are electing their president in a popular vote. Previously, parliament elected the president.