Religious divisions and ethnic voting: the case of sunni Kurds in Turkey

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Bilkent University
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This study investigates the impact of sectarian identities on ethnic voting behavior by focusing on Sunni Kurds in Turkey. The existing literature focuses on the political implications of the Alevi-Sunni cleavage among Kurds and so assumes Sunni Kurds to be a homogeneous group. However, some recent studies suggest that Hanefi- Shafi distinction among Sunni Kurds appears to generate major differences in terms of political orientations among Sunni Kurds. Thus, the following research questions direct this study: How does Hanefi-Shafi distinction among Sunni Kurds shape their political orientations? More specifically, what factors might explain their different voting preferences? The current study suggests that Hanefilik and Shafilik matter among Sunni Kurds in terms of political orientations: compared to Hanefi Kurds, Shafi Kurds are more likely to vote for anti-systemic pro-Kurdish parties. The study argues that the settlement of Hanefi Kurds in urban areas created an ideational path of prostate attitude. Consequently, they have been less likely to vote for anti-systemic ethnic parties. Although the utilitarian perspective of path dependence provides that power, control, influence, cost of reversal, increasing returns are the mechanisms for path maintenance; ideational path dependence is better suited to this case and it offers that values, ideas, legitimacy, moral concerns are the causal mechanisms to explain the continuity of pro-state or pro-Kurdish voting behavior among Sunni Kurds. The study also touches upon the possibility of a habitual logic of path development. Finally, the implications of this study are discussed in relation to path dependence, constructivism and voting behavior.

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Ethnicity, Hanefi-Shafi Division, Path Dependency, Religion, Voting Behavior
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