Opening the Ballot Box: Strategic Voting in Turkey's June 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections

By Ünal, Betül Aydoğan | Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review, January 1, 2020 | Go to article overview

Opening the Ballot Box: Strategic Voting in Turkey's June 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections


Ünal, Betül Aydoğan, Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review


Introduction

It is generally assumed that voters cast their ballots for their preferred party, and that election results are a clear reflection of those preferences. However, voters can deviate from this assumption, acting as rational agents under certain conditions.1 The strategic voting model has made an important contribution to the field of electoral behavior by presenting meaningful explanations for why some people deviate from the behavioral assumptions of the classical models. It asserts that if a voter believes that voting for a lesspreferred party will likely result in a more favorable outcome, then rationality commands the voter to cast a "strategic" vote for that party.2 Strategic voters consider the likely choices of other people and take the risk of an undesirable candidate or party winning into account while making their voting decision.3 Thus, a rational calculation is made to maximize the utility of their vote.4 A substantial body of literature has studied strategic voting in general elections in some industrialized democracies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.5 Furthermore, the amount of literature has been growing rapidly in recent years in the area of strategic voting in new democracies.6 Previous studies on strategic voting have extensively dealt with the issue of ticket-splitting in mixed electoral systems that combine plurality or majority with proportional formulas for an election to a single body.7 However, very little is known about how voters react to incentives for strategic voting in concurrent elections, especially when new and two different electoral systems are used.

The effect of the concurrent presidential and parliamentary elections on strategic voting is still unclear. This paper aims to provide an empirical contribution to our understanding of how voters react to electoral incentives for strategic voting when presidential and parliamentary elections are held concurrently and under different systems. This study analyzes the incentives in such a setting using a case study of Turkey where both the members of the parliament and the president are directly and concurrently elected. If voters split their tickets to avoid wasting their vote and attain a more favorable outcome in the presidential elections, this is considered as strategic voting. Sincere voting is defined as voting for the same party and its presidential candidate in these elections. Turkey's new electoral system serves as an ideal example to examine the effects of the concurrent presidential and parliamentary elections on strategic voting. Firstly, the new electoral laws8 applied in the June 2018 elections as the first elections during the transition to executive presidential system combine majoritarian and proportional elements. Voters cast two ballots simultaneously: the first one is for a candidate in the presidential election and the second one is for a party or an alliance in the parliamentary election. The president is elected under a majoritarian system while the members of parliament are elected from closed party lists under a proportional representation system. Hence, voters cast two separate ballots concurrently in identical contexts but under different rules. Presidential and parliamentary elections held together allow us to directly examine the effect of institutional incentives on strategic voting in a systematic way while controlling for other relevant personal factors that may influence voting decisions such as age, gender, culture, religion and socioeconomic status.9 Secondly, despite the fact that voting was conducted under new electoral rules for concurrent presidential and parliamentary elections for the first time, most Turkish voters have been familiar with concurrent elections due to the different systems that have been enacted since 196310 for local elections. Therefore, there is little reason to suspect that voters unintentionally split their ballots without any strategic reasoning. …

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Opening the Ballot Box: Strategic Voting in Turkey's June 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections
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