The institutional decline of parties in Turkey
John Hopkins University Press
238 - 265
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Political parties and democracy
Commenting on Turkish politics in the 1950s, Frederick Frey argued that “Turkish politics are party politics. . . Within the power structure of Turkish society, the political party is the main unofficial link between the government and the larger, extra-governmental groups of people. . . It is perhaps in this respect above all—the existence of extensive, powerful, highly organized, grassroots parties—that Turkey differs institutionally from the other Middle Eastern nations with whom we frequently compare her.”1 Since the 1970s, however, Turkey’s parties and party system have been undergoing a protracted process of institutional decay, as described in the first section. The party system has been beset by growing fragmentation, ideological polarization, and electoral volatility. Parties themselves have been dogged by declining organizational capacity and a lack of public support and identification. The next section will discuss the common organizational characteristics of Turkey’s main political parties. I shall argue that, in general, Turkish parties are catch-all and cartel parties. In the following sections, I shall discuss the social, ideological, and organizational characteristics of the Welfare Party (now the Virtue party), the Motherland Party, the True Path Party, the Democratic Left Party, and the Republican People’s Party, as well as a few minor parties.