Paradigms and dynamic change in the Turkish party system
Wuthrich, F. Michael
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This study argues that, contrary to popular assertions of the Turkish party system as inexplicable or unpatterned or as the persistent manifestation of an essential socio-cultural cleavage, the historic operation of the Turkish party system in the national electoral arena has demonstrated both dynamic change and significant sets of patterns that illuminate the outcomes of electoral contest in different periods. These can be traced through careful observation of the dimensions of competition and domains of identification operating in a contingent set of circumstances, the pattern of which I refer to as the political paradigm. One can best understand the behavior of the system, its parties and the electorate in elections by observing these paradigmatic patterns and the points at which they shift. Dynamic change, thus, is intended to reflect the interactive nature of the party systems and the interdependent forces— institutions, actors, structures—that combine and interact to bring about significant shifts in the political paradigm—i.e. the contingent ―system of interactions,‖ a key component of the standard definitions of parties as systems. In the Turkish case, through the study of national campaign discourse, existing social and political research and national and provincial-level electoral data for general elections, one can detect four periods in which a distinctive paradigmatic pattern is in operation. In the first period from 1950 to 1965, structural and institutional factors shaped the nature of multiparty politics such that the primary strategies for voter mobilization were various forms of patronclient relationships and the exploitation of existing local social structures. From 1965 to 1977, parties began to utilize ideological imaging to frame both themselves and their opponents within the system of party competition while also mobilizing votes through the growing power of trade unions and machine politics in the large urban squatter communities. After a three year period of military junta rule, multiparty politics and its accompanying paradigm beginning in 1983, guided strongly by the military, emphasized moderation, centrism and an aversion to ideology, and the selection of party was reduced to particular policies and the moderate appeal to service (hizmet) to the people while the political elites utilized rapidly expanding media technology to disseminate their appeal. The success of the religiously-oriented Welfare Party in 1994 and 1995, initiating the final paradigm, was primarily the result of an anti-establishment party capitalizing on existing mundane strategies for voter mobilization, specifically providing effective governance at the municipal level which translated to ―vote banks‖ for the party in national elections. This paradigm witnessed the importance of local governance, strong regional tendencies in voting behavior, and an increasingly identity-based element in campaign discourse, primarily set along a religious-secularist divide and entwined with a secondary Turkish nationalist versus Kurdish nationalist- pluralist pole.