from From the Potomac to the Euphrates and Middle East Program

Is It The Economy, Stupid?

June 16, 2011

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Turkey

Elections and Voting

Traders work during morning session at the Istanbul Stock Exchange (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters)

The Justice and Development Party’s victory last Sunday has been attributed to the economy. This stands to reason given all the good economic news coming out of Ankara these days. When the Turkish economy contracted in 2009 as a result of the global economic downturn, the AKP did not do as well as expected in local and municipal elections. Yet, much like the commentary about economic grievances and the Arab uprisings, it is possible that this economic determinism is well…over-determined. Readers of this blog know of my interest in the political effects of narratives. While I would never dismiss the importance of economic factors for the behavior of individuals, not every political phenomenon has an underlying economic explanation. Ideas matter, too. For all the importance that Turkish growth rates have had on Turkey’s electorate—which, like voters everywhere, put a premium on pocketbook issues—the Justice and Development Party’s success is also a function of a core set of ideas that Prime Minister Erdogan and the party’s other leaders have been emphasizing for the better part of a decade. These include freedom of expression (or more accurately, freedom to be pious); the notion that Turkishness, Muslimness (for lack of a better term), and Europeanness are not mutually exclusive; an appreciation of Turkey as the inheritor of a great civilization; that Turkey is a great power in its own right; and quite frankly, a fair amount of grievances against the so-called status quo. Never mind the fact that after nine years in power, the AKP is the status quo. The combination of these ideas has electrified many Turks who have never before experienced the kind of deeply emotionally satisfying narrative about their own lives and the Turkey that Prime Minister Erdogan and the AKP are offering. Would the AKP win on the narrative alone without stellar economic results (unemployment being an exception)? It’s a good question. I suppose the party would take a hit, but the power and allure of its ideas would put it in a very good position to prevail.

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Elections and Voting

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