Politics, Parties, and Elections in Turkey

Politics, Parties, and Elections in Turkey

Politics, Parties, and Elections in Turkey

Politics, Parties, and Elections in Turkey

Synopsis

Assessing the intertwined effects of party fragmentation and voter volatility in Turkey, the contributors illuminate the trajectory of democratic consolidation, as well as underlying issues of representation, participation and governability.

Excerpt

Competitive electoral politics has survived in Turkey for half a century, give or take less than half a decade of military interregnums. During this period, government has changed hands several times as the result of free elections, easily passing Samuel Huntington's “two-turnover test” for measuring the consolidation of democracy (Huntington 1991, 266). And yet, the common perception is that Turkey has not fully consolidated its democratic system. The major unsolved problem is the apparent failure to establish clear civilian authority over the military. Although the military gave up overt control of government fairly quickly after each of its last three interventions (1960, 1971, and 1980), residues of military involvement in politics and government remain. Most prominently, the National Security Council (NSC), consisting of top civilian and military leaders, provides opportunities for the latter to express opinions on current political issues and exerts pressure on the civilian leadership to adopt policies favored by the military.

The scholarly literature reflects uncertainty concerning the stability of democratic politics in Turkey based on other factors as well. These doubts are predicated on the historical record and on analyses of electoral data and public opinion surveys. Conclusions based on these studies address such features as elite-mass relations, demographic trends, contextual factors, socioeconomic changes, and ideology. I propose to review that literature here. In doing so, I will focus on the phenomenon of protest voting.

Protest voting is a danger signal for the system, for it reflects dissatisfaction and disillusionment with politics and often the political system itself. It undermines the broad consensus necessary for stable democracy, or it suggests the lack or weakness of such a consensus. Prime examples of protest voting running amok are Weimar Germany, Fourth Republic France, and post-World War II Italy. But the phenomenon is also present in such . . .

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