From June 24th to March 21st: Political Polarization In Turkey In Between Two Elections

Our project, “From June 24th to March 21st: Political Polarization In Turkey In Between Two Elections”, undertaken in cooperation with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation Turkey, Turkey Social-Economic-Political Research Foundation and Social Democracy Foundation, is now complete.

Research from past years have shown that socio-political division between people of different political tendencies will develop and materialize in Turkey. Further distancing and intolerance between the electorate of different political parties bring about polarization and a rigidifying electoral composition.  

In contrast to the many paradigm shifting events that occurred in Turkey since 2011, noticeable change in the voting behaviour of the electorate can’t be observed. Especially after 2015, which was the year that saw the beginning of the “alliance” politics that dominate the current Turkish political life.

When the distribution of the electorate along demographic, socioeconomic and cultural lines is analyzed, it becomes clear that political parties cannot reach across them. Likewise, it appears that identity and party politics is a much more deciding factor in electoral behaviour, compared to other issues like the economy, education, unemployment and the rule of law, which are coincidentally issues that a large percent of the electorate agree upon. This is one of the reasons of the rather monumental intra-bloc vote exchange in contrast to the minimal inter-bloc exchange observed in the June 24th Elections of 2018.

It thus follows that electoral immobility is rooted in the predominance of identity-centric polarization over economic and social issues. This is further supplemented by the fact that while most of the electorate of the AKP and MHP have been observed to be discontent of the economical and social situation, no significant crossover from these parties have occurred in the past elections.

The rigidified identity aura of the opposition also prevent a vote retrieval from the ruling parties. Proof of work against such rigidification is yet to be seen on the oppositions’ side — even though a reconsideration of the situation would show that the issue is deeply embedded in the viability of democratic institutions in the country. On top of this, the abuse of polarized political scene allow for the weakening of circumstances of coexistence.

Within this context, the importance of research into the polarized social-scape, in the run-up to another election, is clearly evident. Therefore, questions like “How does the Turkish electorate approach problematic issues and how does polarization affect their approach?”, “How does the Turkish electorate view the parties on the other side of the spectrum?” And especially, “At which issues does such polarization intensify, and at which issues can it be curbed?” Steered the way in our research.

Project Team: Edgar Şar, Seren Selvin Korkmaz (Project Coordinators), Arif Safa Yükselay, Ayşe Yanmaz, Burak Ak, Gülçin Karabağ, Özer Özkan, Selen Duruşkan

You can access the project report from this link.

You can access the abstract of the report from here.

IstanPol acknowledges Infakto and Facility Istanbul for their contributions and SODEV and TÜSES for their collaboration.