Economic Reforms and the Fragmentation of the Political Party System: the Turkish Case, 1980-2002

Avcu, Seyit Ali, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Quandt, William, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the long-term social and political consequences of a critical juncture: the economic reform policies in Turkey during the 1980s, mainly changing the development strategy from Import-Substitution Industrialization (ISI) to Export-Led Growth (ELG). The principal questions I address are why Turkey struggled with economic and political crises during the 1990s, and how extreme fragmentation of the party system resulted in weak coalition governments despite institutional measures to prevent it. Particularly puzzling was the division of the two seemingly identical centerright parties. I answer these questions by hypothesizing that gradual and incomplete neoliberal reforms created winners and losers among interest groups and voters in the 1992 elections. The losers, mainly workers and farmers, voted for statist parties while the winners, the new urban middle class, kept their support for the reform party, the Motherland Party, which resulted in coalition governments until 2002. The continuous political party fragmentation is explained by the addition of the issue cleavages, basically statist-liberal, to existing social cleavages, mainly center-periphery, secular-religious, and urban-rural, during the economic reform era. This made it very hard for the political entrepreneurs to gather social groups with conflicting interests under one party. Another long-term consequence of the economic reforms has been the change in interest groups, especially the rise of the export-oriented Islamic bourgeoisie which caused fear in the traditional domestic-oriented bourgeoisie, including the military which led the "soft" coup in 1997. However, to protect its material interests, the Islamic bourgeoisie favored moderation and helped Recep Tayyip Erdoî´²an to bring together several functions to overcome cleavages under one party, the Justice and Development Party, which came to ii power alone in the 2002 elections and ended the decade-long phenomenon of weak coalition governments.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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