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It appears that, under Turkish law, it is illegal for foreign persons or entities to make any kind of donation or assistance, in money or in kind, to political parties regardless of where these donations will be used by the political party. Political parties are further barred from receiving any kind of direct or indirect assistance from non-Turkish persons and entities. A political party receiving any kind of material assistance from foreign entities for any reason may be permanently dissolved by the Constitutional Court. Party authorities or candidates who are responsible for the receipt of foreign donations may be imprisoned. There appears to be no prohibition against foreign persons and entities not affiliated with a political party using their freedom of expression to communicate about elections in the form of online content on the internet. The display of certain types of physical material, on the other hand, is subject to additional restrictions during election periods. Participation by foreign persons and entities in political marches and meetings is subject to additional rules at all times. There appears to be no specific rule concerning the mandatory reporting of illegal foreign assistance in the context of the financing of political parties. There appears to be no specific legislation concerning the financing of electoral campaigns, and the general rules concerning the financing of political parties also apply to elections. There appears to be a gap in the law concerning the financing of individual electoral candidates as opposed to the rules concerning political parties. Turkey has been criticized by GRECO of the Council of Europe for its lack of progress in fixing this unregulated field.

I. Overview of Legal Framework Applicable to Political Parties and Campaigns

Under Turkish law, the financing of political parties and political campaigns is regulated at the constitutional level and by statute.

Article 69 of the Constitution of Turkey[1] authorizes the Constitutional Court to audit the accounts of political parties in collaboration with the Court of Accounts, and forbids political parties to engage in commercial activity with or to accept aid from foreign entities. Accepting aid from foreign entities is explicitly sanctioned by permanent dissolution of the party as the constitutional norm.

The Law on Political Parties (LPP)[2] regulates the founding, organization, objectives, rights, obligations, acquisition of property, incomes and expenses, auditing, and dissolution (voluntarily or by court order) of political parties. The LPP includes a catalogue of allowed sources of income for political parties (arts. 61-69), which also incorporates prohibitions on certain sources of aid, including foreign entities. A further prohibition on assistance by foreign entities is set forth in Article 79(c), under Part IV of the LPP, which prohibits certain activities related to public order, national sovereignty, and the unitary character of the state. The LPP prescribes a range of sanctions, including criminal sanctions, for the violation of the prohibitions.

Apart from the general rules set for the activities and financing of political parties under the LPP, the Law Concerning the Basic Provisions of Elections and Electoral Rolls (Elections Law) sets forth a specific legal framework applicable to political campaigning in national and regional elections.[3] This framework is complemented by the provisions of the Law Concerning the Establishment and Broadcasting Services of Radios and Televisions (Radio and TV Law)[4] regarding political programming and advertising specific to election periods, and the applicable general provisions of the Law on Public Meetings and Demonstration Marches (LMM).[5] The latter law includes special provisions regulating the organization of public meetings and demonstration marches by foreign entities and their participation in these events (art. 3/2 LMM).

The Law on Presidential Elections (LPE)[6] sets forth certain special provisions concerning donations that can be made to the “election accounts” of individual presidential candidates (as distinct from donations that can be made to political parties supporting the candidates) to be used for presidential election campaigns. These provisions include a ban on accepting donations from foreign persons. General provisions of the Elections Law and other related legislation mentioned above remain applicable to presidential elections.

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II. Rules Regarding Financing of Political Parties, Candidates, and Campaigns

A. LPP and LPE

The LPP provides a complete list of the sources of income allowed for political parties (art. 61 LPP). Parties can collect various categories of fees from party members,[7] and income may be generated by property owned by the party, the sale of party paraphernalia, and from donations. Additionally, parties that have received at least 3% of the vote in national elections receive annual financial assistance from the state in an amount proportional to the vote that they obtained. The amount of annual funding is multiplied by two for municipal election years, by three for national parliamentary election years, and by three for years in which both elections take place.

Article 66 LPP regulates donations, prohibiting donations from certain public entities and entities in which the state is a stakeholder, and from any natural or legal person that is not of Turkish nationality, including foreign states and international institutions. Art. 66/2 provides for an annual value limit (subject to annual revisions) on monetary or in-kind individual donations (including access to publishing or broadcast media) by authorized natural or legal persons. In 2016, the annual value limit was TRY37,105.[8] Political parties are also prohibited from engaging in commercial activities and receiving credit or loans (art. 67) and acquiring real property that is not necessary for party activities (art. 68).

Other than the rules regarding donations made to individual candidates in presidential elections explained below, there are no special provisions for the financing of political campaigns and electoral propaganda, and the financing rules of the LPP apply to these activities. The LPP rules also apply to the activities of political parties in the context of presidential elections.

The LPE provides for additional rules specifically regarding the financing of the electoral campaigns of presidential election candidates. According to article 14 LPE, candidates can accept donations only from natural persons of Turkish nationality. Donations must be deposited in an “election account” audited by the Supreme Election Council and used only for election-related expenses. Individual donations for each election round cannot exceed the gross monthly compensation of Turkey’s highest ranking civil servant. In the June 2018 presidential elections, this limit was TRY 13,916.[9] Amounts exceeding the individual limit and monies that were not spent for election-related expenses by the end of the election are transferred to the Treasury.

B. Rules Related to Ethics and Bribery

The only existing statutory framework applicable to the financial affairs of elected public officials and high-level political appointees such as ministers and presidential advisors is set by the Law on Declarations of Assets and Combating Bribery and Corruption.[10] Article 3 of that law stipulates that “gifts” (other than frames of signed commemorative photographs) given to such individuals for any reason by a foreign state, international institution, any kind of legal entity under international law, or natural or legal persons that are not of Turkish nationality must be transferred to their own institutions if a gift’s value exceeds ten times the net minimum monthly wage at the time of gifting (approximately TRY20,210 or about US3,564 for 2019).

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe has criticized Turkey for not implementing its recommendations for the adoption of a more comprehensive code of ethical conduct for members of parliament that covers conflicts of interest, including gifts and other advantages, third-party contacts, relationships with lobbyists, and employment arrangements after a member’s term of office has ended, etc. The most recent GRECO compliance report found Turkey’s compliance with its recommendations to be “globally unsatisfactory.”[11]

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III. Constitutional and Statutory Prohibitions against Foreign Financing or Other Assistance for Political Parties

While, in principle, foreign persons are guaranteed freedom of expression, including political speech, under the Constitution of Turkey by virtue of articles 10 (prohibition of discrimination and equality before the law), 26 (freedom of expression and dissemination of thought), and 28 (freedom of the press), the political activity of foreign natural and legal persons is subject to certain limitations, as permitted by article 16 of the Constitution, which allows the limiting of fundamental rights and freedoms of foreigners by statute in accordance with international law.

Article 69, paragraph 10 of the Constitution states: “Political parties that accept aid from foreign states, international institutions and persons and corporate bodies of non-Turkish nationality shall be dissolved permanently.” In the place of the word ”aid” in the translation provided by the official website of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and reproduced above, the original Turkish text uses the words maddi yardım, which translate to ”material aid.” It appears from the text of the Article before its amendment in 1995 and the relevant provisions of the LPP that govern the application of the constitutional rule that material aid is to be understood as all kinds of monetary and in-kind assistance.  

The constitutional norm has been codified in the LPP, in both specific financial and criminal sanctions addressing irregular and illegal receipts of donations and in the sanction of permanent dissolution of a party by the Constitutional Court.[12]

A. Donation-Related Financial and Criminal Sanctions

As mentioned above, donations made to political parties are regulated under Article 66 LPP, which also applies in its entirety to election periods and election campaigning. Besides providing a list of domestic legal persons that are prohibited from donating or otherwise providing material aid to political parties, article 66 prohibits political parties from accepting “monetary and in-kind assistance and donations” from foreign states, international institutions, and natural and legal persons that are not of Turkish nationality. All income or real property found to be acquired by a political party in violation of the financial rules (including the rules concerning donations in article 66) by an audit of a party by the Constitutional Court will be confiscated and transferred to the Treasury (art. 76). Persons donating, or party officials accepting, donations in violation of the donation-related rules of the LPP can be subject to imprisonment for six months to one year (art. 116/1), while party officials, party candidates, or nominees for candidacy who accept donations from foreign states, international institutions, or natural or legal persons that are not of Turkish nationality can be subject to imprisonment for one to three years.

A further prohibition on foreign assistance is found in article 79 LPP titled “Protection of Independence [of the state],” which proscribes the “acceptance of direct and indirect assistance in any form” from the same list of non-Turkish entities. Due to the lack of guiding jurisprudence from the Constitutional Court on the matter, our research could not yield information as to what kind of assistance comprises ”non-material aid” or as to the scope of the terms ”direct” and ”indirect” assistance referred to in article 79. In any case, the LPP provides the above-mentioned specific financial and criminal sanctions only for violation of the article 66 donation-related prohibition. It appears that the general party dissolution or ”warning decision” procedures under article 101 and 104, respectively, and as explained below, apply to the article 79 prohibition.

B. Dissolution of Party by Constitutional Court

Within the system of the LPP, there appears to be a categorical difference made between “constitutional prohibitions” provided in article 101 LPP and statutory prohibitions laid down in other provisions of the LPP and in other laws. While the sanction for violation of constitutional prohibitions is dissolution of the party or its exclusion from state assistance (art. 101), the sanction for the latter type of prohibition is a ”warning decision” made by the Constitutional Court, ordering the party to cease the violation (art. 104).[13]

Constitutional prohibitions consist of the restatement of article 69 of the Constitution in article 101 of the LPP. Article 101/1(c) LPP repeats the rule of Article 69, para. 10 of the Constitution regarding the prohibition of foreign material aid and sets the sanction as dissolution of the political party by the Constitutional Court. The dissolution action is brought by the Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, and may be initiated ex officio by the Chief Prosecutor, or upon the complaint of another political party or the Department of Justice under a decree by the Cabinet of Ministers (arts. 98-100).

It is noteworthy that the article 101/1(c) prohibition was excluded from the article 101/2 provision allowing the Constitutional Court to order a relatively more lenient sanction of partially or entirely denying state assistance to a political party that violates the prohibitions of article 101/1(a) and (b), which together concern certain activities against the rule of law; the independence, unity, democratic and secular character of the state; or the promotion of dictatorship.

It appears that article 101/1(c)’s prohibition of foreign “material aid” is interpreted to include article 66’s prohibition of foreign “monetary and in-kind assistance and donations.”[14] However, research did not yield information as to the extent the article 79 prohibition against the “acceptance of direct and indirect assistance in any form” from foreign persons and entities overlaps in practice with the article 101 prohibition regarding material aid. There appears to be a lack of guiding jurisprudence from the Constitutional Court on this point.

There appears to be no specific rule concerning the mandatory reporting of foreign assistance in the context of the financing of political parties.

C. Question of Foreign Assistance via Associations and Foundations Located in Turkey

In 2007 the Constitutional Court annulled a provision in article 10 of the Law on Associations[15] that allowed associations founded under the Turkish Civil Code to make donations to political parties. The Court reasoned that since article 21 of the same Law allowed associations to accept monetary and in-kind assistance from persons located abroad,[16] allowing associations to make donations to political parties would provide a way to circumvent the constitutional prohibition against foreign material assistance to political parties. The Court explained that “it is understood that the framers of the constitution [by including the prohibition against foreign assistance] have sought to protect political parties from all kinds of external influence. It is possible for political parties that receive in-kind or monetary assistance from persons, institutions and organizations located abroad to fall under the influence of these and be directed from abroad.” The Court, on the other hand, rejected claims of unconstitutionality against the article 21 provision allowing assistance by persons from abroad, finding that there was no constitutional barrier to such assistance, provided that the persons did not convey assistance to political parties.[17]

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IV. Regulation of Electoral Campaigns

The conduct of political campaigns by political parties and their candidates in a public election (electoral campaigns) is regulated mainly by the Elections Law and the LPE. Additional rules regarding political communications and electoral campaigns are included in the Radio and TV Law and the LMM.

This report does not detail the provisions of the Elections Law regulating the conduct of electoral campaigns, as they do not include specific provisions concerning the involvement of foreign persons or entities, in any form. Indeed, as mentioned above, the financing of electoral campaigns is not specifically regulated apart from the rules concerning presidential candidates’ election accounts in the LPE, and therefore, it appears that the rules of the LPP concerning foreign assistance will apply generally to the activity of political parties related to electoral campaigns.

There appears to be a significant gap in the law concerning the financing and expenditures of individual candidates in municipal and national elections other than presidential elections, whether or not the candidates are affiliated with a party. The absence of specific rules for the financing of electoral campaigns is criticized in the literature, and legislative efforts to regulate the area appear to have been fruitless so far.[18] GRECO criticized Turkey for the lack of concrete legislative steps to adopt an adequate legal framework to ensure transparency of the financing of electoral campaigns, while noting the publication of a Guidebook on Financial Auditing of Political Parties [19] as a positive development.[20]

As there exists no special legislation under Turkish law concerning the employment of foreign persons in political campaigns as employees or consultants, it is reasonable to conclude that the LPP’s general prohibition against material aid (art. 101) and acceptance of direct and indirect assistance in any form (art. 79) will preclude a political party from employing a non-Turkish national in any capacity, whether or not the employment is related to an electoral campaign. However, the law is silent concerning the individual election campaigns of candidates, and a gap similar to that concerning financing of electoral campaigns exists in this area.

A. Rules on Political Communications during Election Periods and Their Applicability to Foreign Persons

The Election Law’s rules regarding election campaigns are effective from sixty days before the election day in the case of national elections, and for three months before municipal elections. The rules apply to both the candidates of political parties and independent candidates. The election law also includes certain limitations concerning the political communications of private “citizens” (vatandaşlar) not officially affiliated with an election campaign. Citizens cannot physically display banners, posters, placards, party flags, or similar materials that convey a political message or advertisement in places other than those provided in the Law (art. 61). Citizens are allowed to display such materials on their private residences, workplaces, and vehicles beginning from the thirtieth day before the election day until 6 p.m. on the day before the election day (art. 60/13). Displaying electoral advertisements on the internet appears to be unrestricted, except for sending emails, and the sending of voice and text messages to private telephones, which are not allowed (art. 55/B(1) and (2)).

Although the word vatandaşlar, which translates as “citizens,” is used in the Election Law’s provisions concerning the regulation of political communications, in light of the overall structure of the Law and the language used, it appears that the term citizen might reasonably be interpreted as being used to distinguish individuals not affiliated with a political campaign from those who are. Research did not yield explicit judicial guidance on the matter, however, and clarification may depend on whether the Constitutional Court considers the issue. Thus, whether foreign persons can physically display political messages and advertisements during the electoral period regulated by the Election Law is unclear.

B. Further Limitations on Foreign Persons’ Political Activities with Regard to Public Meetings and Marches

Besides the prohibition under the LPP of becoming a member of a political party or giving assistance to a political party in any form, another limitation on the political speech of foreign persons exists under the LMM, which regulates the conduct of public meetings and marches. According to article 3/2 LMM, natural or legal foreign persons must receive permission from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to organize a public meeting or a march. Foreign persons who want to address the audience or carry propaganda material such as photos, placards, banners, etc. in a meeting or a march must notify the highest administrative authority about the place of the event forty-eight hours in advance (art. 3/2, second sentence). The latter rule was created by an amendment in 2002—previously, these activities were also subject to the permission of the Ministry. [21]

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V. Auditing of Political Parties and Campaigns, and External Criticism on Effectiveness and Transparency of Auditing System

As mentioned above, the Constitutional Court is responsible of the financial auditing of political parties with the assistance of the Court of Accounts. In practice, political parties send their final accountings to the Constitutional Court in June each year, which are then forwarded to the Court of Accounts for inspection.[22] The reports of the Court of Accounts are then reviewed by the Constitutional Court and finalized with a judgment.[23] The Constitutional Court may order the transfer to the Treasury of income that it finds to be irregular, and make criminal complaints to the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor in cases where criminal sanctions provided in article 111 LPP apply to the irregularities. There appears to be no separate auditing procedure specific to the financing of electoral campaigns by political parties or candidates, with the important exception of the auditing rules brought by the LPE that charges the Supreme Election Council with auditing the election accounts of individual presidential candidates (art. 14/6-8 LPE).[24] It appears that the Supreme Election Council’s auditing authority does not extend to the electoral campaigns of political parties that support the presidential candidates. Presidential candidates also are also required to declare their assets to register as candidates; the declarations are published in the Official Gazette following the finalization of the elections (art. 14/2 LPE).

External reports on the effectiveness of the auditing and anticorruption framework for campaign financing and the financing of political parties in general appear to be highly critical of the current auditing system. The scope of the audit under the LPP was criticized by Transparency International-Turkey reports for being narrow in scope, and was characterized as being a technical accounting regularity audit limited to the inspection of financial records provided to Court; the very wide definition of allowed expenditures in the LPP was also criticized.[25] It was noted that the absence of any kind of financial reporting or asset disclosure obligations applicable to electoral candidates presents a severe problem in transparent accounting of expenditures of political parties during electoral campaigns, pointing out that there is an unregulated possibility for the comingling of the political party’s funds and the candidates’ own resources that can be generated by monetary or in-kind donations or provision of services by third parties, which may allow for underreporting of expenditures, especially in election periods.[26] The European Commission’s Turkey 2018 Report stated that “[t]he track record of audits on the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns demonstrates a very low level of effectiveness,” highlighting the country’s failure in implementing GRECO recommendations.[27] The 2019 Report reiterated Turkey’s failure to align its policy with GRECO recommendations, and highlighted the absence of legislation regulating conflicts of interests in governance and lobbying.[28]

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Kayahan Cantekin
Foreign Law Specialist
August 2019


[1] Constitution of the Turkish Republic, Law No. 2709 (adopted Oct. 18, 1982, published Nov. 9, 1982).

[2] Siyasi Partiler Kanunu [Law on Political Parties], Law No. 2820 (published and effective Apr. 24, 1983).

[3] Seçimlerin Temel Hükümleri ve Seçmen Kütükleri Hakkında Kanun [Law Concerning the Basic Provisions of Elections and Electoral Rolls], Law No. 293 (published and effective May 26, 1961). Intraparty primary elections are regulated by articles 37-52 LPP.

[4] Radyo ve Televizyonların Kuruluş ve Yayın Hizmetleri Hakkında Kanun [Law Concerning the Establishment and Broadcasting Services of Radios and Televisions], Law No. 6112 (published and effective Mar. 3, 2011).

[5] Toplantı ve Gösteri Yürüyüşleri Kanunu [Law on Public Meetings and Demonstration Marches], Law No. 2911 (published Oct. 6, 1983, effective Jan. 3, 1984).

[6] Cumhurbaşkanı Seçimi Kanunu [Law on Presidential Elections], Law No. 6271 (published and effective Jan. 26, 2012).

[7] Only Turkish citizens can become party members: Const. art. 67; art. 6 LPP.

[8] Court of Accounts of Turkey, Siyasi Partiler Mali Denetim Rehberi [Guidebook on Financial Auditing of Political Parties] 56 (December 2015, ver. 2015/1).

[9] Decision No. 2018/335 of the Supreme Election Council (Apr. 30, 2018).

[10] Mal Bildiriminde Bulunulması, Rüşvet ve Yolsuzluklarla Mücadele Kanunu [Law on Declarations of Assets, and Combating Bribery and Corruption], Law No. 3628 (published and effective May 4, 1990).

[11] GRECO, Fourth Evaluation Round, Interim Compliance Report on Turkey 3, 15 (June 28, 2019), https://rm.coe.int/fourth-evaluation-round-corruption-prevention-in-respect-of-members-of/168095417c, archived at https://perma.cc/YK6S-9UXK.

[12] Nevertheless, research did not yield any dissolution judgments that were made by the Court on the basis of article 69, paragraph 10 in the history of the provision, nor, it appears, were any dissolution actions brought against any political party on these grounds. This accounts for the lack of judicial guidance on the interpretation of the constitutional norm and the statutory rules based on it.

[13] Originally, article 104, after its amendment in 2003 by Law No. 4778, provided that the Chief Prosecutor would ex officio bring an action for denial or partial denial of state assistance against a party that did not cease the violation within six months of the notification of the Constitutional Court’s warning decision. However, this provision was struck down by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it was discriminatory against parties that were eligible for state assistance as it could not be applied effectively against parties that were not eligible. The resulting gap in the legislation does not appear to be fixed yet. Constitutional Court of Turkey, decision no. 2008/5 E. 2009/81 K. (June 11, 2009).

[14] Court of Accounts of Turkey, supra note 8, at 25.

[15] Dernekler Kanunu [Law on Associations], Law No. 5253 (published and effective Nov. 4, 2004).

[16] Conditional on prior notification made to the chief of the local authority, art. 21 of the Law on Associations.

[17] Constitutional Court of Turkey, Decision No. E.2004/107 K.2007/44 (Apr. 5, 2007). Cited in Cem D. Uzun, Türkiye’de Siyasi Partilerin Finansmanı 121 (Adalet Yayınevi, 2010). Uzun points to the fact that foundations are similarly allowed under article 25/2 of the Law on Foundations ([Vakıflar Kanunu], Law No. 5737, published and effective Feb. 20, 2008), to accept donations and assistance from persons and entities located abroad, and argues that this might also be a loophole in light of the Constitutional Court’s reasoning. The Law on Foundations does not include a provision explicitly allowing foundations to donate to political parties, however, there are no provisions that explicitly prohibit it. Uzun at 124. The fact that article 5 of the Law on Foundations allows foreign persons to establish foundations in Turkey on the basis of reciprocity further complicates the problem.

[18] See for example Gençkaya, Gündüz et al., Siyasetin Finansmanı ve Şeffaflık, Transparency Int’l, Jan. 2016, at 71. The most recent large-scale attempt to introduce election financing regulation appears to be a draft bill proposed by the Republican People’s Party on Mar. 20, 2017. No significant legislative actions appear to have been taken regarding this bill and it appears that the draft bill was not reintroduced in the current session of the legislature. The GRECO Third Evaluation Round compliance reports for Turkey indicate that a draft bill on transparency in campaign financing was in the process of being prepared by the government beginning in 2014, but it has not been finalized and sent to the parliament yet. GRECO, Third Evaluation Round, Addendum to the Second Compliance Report on Turkey 6 (June 28, 2019), https://rm.coe.int/third-evaluation-round-addendum-to-the-second-compliance-report-on-tur/1680954181, archived at https://perma.cc/VR7Q-5V8L.

[19] See supra note 8.

[20] GRECO, supra note 18, at 6.

[21] Law No. 2911, note 5, amended by Law No. 4771 (published Aug. 3, 2002).

[22] This procedure was brought by Law Regarding the Establishment of the Constitutional Court and its Adjudicative Procedure, Law No. 6216.

[23] Rıfat Karakoç, Türkiye’de Siyasi Partilerin Mali Denetimi [Financial Audit of Political Parties in Turkey], 109 Sayıştay Dergisi 90 (2018), https://www.sayistay.gov.tr/tr/Upload/95906369/files/dergi/pdf/109m4.pdf.

[24] Gündüz, Erdoğan et al., Türkiye Şeffaflık Sistemi Analizi 139 (Transparency Int’l, 2016).

[25] Gençkaya, Gündüz et al., supra note 18, at 31; Gündüz, Erdoğan et al., supra note 24, at 187. Indeed, a provision included in article 74/1 LPP by an omnibus bill in 2011 prevented the Court from conducting the audit “in a manner that would narrow the scope of the activities that are seen useful for furthering the aims of political parties” and from “questioning the appropriateness of such activities,” while another provision introduced as article 74/4 LPP by the same bill states “[p]olitical parties may make any expenditure within the scope of the political activities they see necessary in the furtherance of their aims.” Amending (omnibus) Law No. 6111 (published and relevant provisions effective Feb. 25, 2011).

[26] Gündüz, Erdoğan et al., supra note 24, at188.

[27] European Commission, Turkey 2018 Report 28 (CommissionStaff Working Document SWD(2018) 153 final) (Apr. 17, 2018).

[28] European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report 27 (CommissionStaff Working Document SWD(2019) 220 final) (Mar. 29, 2019).

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020