Embattled ballots, quiet streets: Competitive authoritarianism and dampening anti-government protests in Turkey
Mass protests frequently occur in electoral autocracies. However, the opposite is true in Turkey, despite mounting grievances and a strong opposition presence with institutional resources. We argue that competitive authoritarian regimes, a subset of electoral autocracies, may dampen mass protests, allowing the opposition an opportunity to defeat the incumbents through elections. Studying Turkey’s main opposition party, we identify three mechanisms that show how politicians strategically respond to the regime’s incentives and constraints leading to protest-averse behaviour. First, the regime’s repression capacity discourages the opposition from openly supporting a mass protest. Second, the opposition learns to target the median voter, which leads to political moderation and protest averseness. Finally, prospective electoral success reinforces the opposition’s commitment to a ballot-centred approach.