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Elections and Contentious Politics in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes: The Case of Turkey

Comparative Politics
Contentious Politics
Democracy
Elections
Evren Balta
OZYEGIN UNIVERSITY
Evren Balta
OZYEGIN UNIVERSITY
Haldun GULALP
Yıldız Technical University

Abstract

Competitive authoritarianism is a prominent example of the globally widespread forms of hybrid regimes. It differs from full-blown authoritarianism in that competitive elections are the main vehicle by which support to the regime is demonstrated and opposition groups contest power. Given the centrality of elections in the legitimation of competitive authoritarian regimes, the mechanisms that sustain such electoral support to the incumbent government remain relatively unexamined. This paper aims to examine these mechanisms by reference to the case of Turkey. We aim to show how ruling political elites transform citizens’ preferences by distributing spoils to the economic elites and keeping a significant segment of the citizenry dependent on the regime’s largesse for their livelihood. Incumbents then use elections to demonstrate the popularity of their rule and to delegitimize the opposition. We further argue that this situation creates the context for the emergence of popular protests.