“Citizens and Formal Institutions in Nondemocratic Systems: Expectations on the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Council” (with Oya Yeğen)
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Özge Kemahlıoğlu
Department of Political Science
Wednesday, November 4, 2020, 13:30
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Given the dominance of elites in the politics of authoritarian regimes, most of the research on formal institutions in nondemocratic countries try to shed light on the incentives of the authoritarian rulers for introducing these institutions, especially those related to elections and power sharing (Lagace and Gandhi 2015). In recent backsliding cases, however, changes regarding the formal institutions tend to happen incrementally and gradually. In this paper, we analyze how citizens perceive the role of formal institutions in such a setting. Since the rulers can no longer commit to noninterference, would the citizens still expect formal political institutions to make a difference in policy choice and outcomes? Empirically we explore this question with a survey experiment from the pre-election survey of June 2019 repeated mayoral elections in Istanbul. Focusing on the local government in a highly centralized system also takes a different angle than previous studies and allows us to explore this question for a relatively powerless and less well-known formal institution, municipal council. Still we find that policy expectations of AKP supporters change when a cue makes them consider which party gained the majority in the municipal council as a result of the March 2019 local elections. We discuss various possible mechanisms for this finding, including the possibility that supporters of the incumbents in competitive authoritarian regimes have a biased, positive evaluation of the political system in terms of its democratic credentials.
Özge Kemahlıoğlu is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Sabanci University. Her research mainly focuses on party politics, political economy of sub-national governments, distributive politics and incumbency advantage. Her single and co-authored articles on these topics appeared in Comparative Politics, Journal of Politics, Journal of Theoretical Politics, Latin American Politics and Society, South European Politics and Society and Public Choice. She is the author of Agents or Bosses? Patronage and Intra-party Politics in Argentina and Turkey, published by the ECPR Press in 2012.