The strategic culture and political beliefs of Turkey’s far-right leaders: an operational code analysis of Alparslan Türkeş and Devlet Bahçeli

Özdamar, Özgür
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Bilkent University
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Far-right parties with strong nationalist tendencies have occupied a central role in Turkish politics. Sometimes as the radical voice of the opposition parties, sometimes as the minor coalition partner, Turkish nationalism has found itself a strong grip on the political scene since the 1950’s. Alparslan Türkeş and Devlet Bahçeli are viewed as the pioneer figures in the long journey of Turkish nationalism. Both leaders have served as party leaders for more than two decades through several coups, domestic and international changes. In this regard, understanding their belief systems becomes a must in order to understand the foreign policy culture of the Turkish far-right. By utilizing the operational code, a quantitative leadership assessment method that maps the political beliefs of leaders in order to identify causal mechanisms in foreign policy decisions (George, 1969); (Walker, 1983) the study looks to identify the general patterns of Turkish far-right leaders in foreign policy. While analysing the belief systems of Türkeş and Bahçeli, the thesis also looks at the foreign policy events that the leaders experienced. Thus, the quantitative results that stem from the automated coding system ProfilerPlus will be combined with a qualitative aspect that will shed light to the events that give meaning to the beliefs. Three main sets of hypotheses are tested in the thesis. First, Bahçeli is expected to have more stable views on the nature of political universe; Türkeş is believed to have a more hostile understanding of the political universe compared to Bahçeli; and both leaders are expected to see their political other more hostile than the average world leader. Secondly, the study hypothesizes that Türkeş and Bahçeli select more cooperative strategies during their governmental terms but remain conflictual compared to the average world leader in any setting. Third and finally, the thesis argues for the two leaders to possess lower self-control over the course of historical development compared to the average world leader; and expects them to have similar control levels during the 1990’s –a time period in which both leaders ruled their Parties. The findings of the study reveal that Türkeş and Bahçeli possess high levels of hostility towards the political universe, adopt conflictual strategies compared to the average world leader, and their level of historical control remain slightly over the average world leader. While there are minor differences among the two leaders, a clear party orientation can be spotted in the field of foreign policy. Approaching the strategic culture debate from a theoretical perspective, their typologies correspond with a ‘realist-other’ approach on the nature of political universe alongside ‘mixed self-strategies’ that swing between moderate ‘idealism’ and ‘realism.’ Nevertheless, the findings also show that most deviations from their career averages have occurred during governmental power and brief opportunity windows. In adopting a longitudinal approach, the thesis analyses the belief systems of the two leaders in several time-frames.

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