National Elections in Turkey: People, Politics, and the Party System
by F. Michael Wuthrich
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2015. 376 pp. $49.95.
Reviewed by Burak Bekdil
Middle East Quarterly
Wuthrich of the University of Kansas presents a useful analysis of Turkey's democratic electoral history, which essentially began in 1950 after decades of one-party rule under the Kemalist Republican People's Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP). For Turkey's opposition parties, whose votes seem more or less stuck in neutral since the Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) came to power in 2002, his research is indispensable.
Wuthrich examines the rhetoric employed in contemporary campaigns, examining party election manifestos and campaign speeches as well as strategies deployed for collecting votes. He analyzes how today's political parties compete for votes and how the electorate is actually orienting itself within the current political environment. Without neglecting the importance of identity and in-group/out-group categorizations in voting, Wuthrich's research finds that those identities, including religious/secular, Turkish/Kurdish, and Sunni/Alevi divisions, have often been secondary concerns for the general electorate; more important concerns are bread-and-butter economic issues, unemployment, or anything beyond "identity." The author also uses graphs and tables to substantiate what every Turk knows but cannot verify: The electorate is inherently right-wing. In a voting bloc patterns table, Wuthrich shows, for example, that the "Right" bloc in Turkey increased from 59.8 percent in 1950 to 66.7 percent in 2011.
Politicians as well as scholars who view the Turkish political landscape with unease because of the direction that the seemingly unchallenged Islamists led by Erdoğan are taking the country will benefit from Wuthrich's insights.
Related Topics: Turkey and Turks | Burak Bekdil | Summer 2016 MEQ
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