"Regime Change under the Party of Justice and Development (AKP) in Turkey," in The Oxford Handbook of Politics in Muslim Societies, Oxford University Press, 2022, 143-166.
This chapter examines Turkey’s transition to an authoritarian regime under the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party—AKP). Turkey’s regime transition reflects the broader pattern of “executive aggrandizement,” whereby the accountability of elected governments is progressively eroded. Turkey’s regime has slid gradually from an illiberal democracy constrained by the power of the military to an authoritarian regime in which the president monopolizes political power. The political, economic, and institutional contexts in which elections take place are heavily skewed in favor of the incumbents, and the ballot box serves to legitimize the government rather than holding it accountable. The chapter surveys the primary factors that have influenced the process of regime change. In particular, it focuses on the role of persistent electoral victories early in the AKP’s tenure in government, the marginalization of Erdoğan’s rivals within the AKP, the creation of a pro-government business class that controls the media landscape, the role of social welfare practices, and the party’s capture of judicial and security bureaucracies. While Islamic social movements like the Gülen community, as well as the AKP’s Islamist identity, played a role in regime change, religion’s impact on authoritarian transition was minimal. Studying the process of democratic backsliding in Turkey, a Muslim-majority state, illuminates crucial mechanisms of democratic breakdown and authoritarian regime consolidation more broadly.
"Oil-Fueled Insurgencies: Lootable Wealth and Political Order in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria," Journal of Global Security Studies, vol. 2, no.1, 2017, 74-88. (with Matthew Scotch)
What makes oil a lootable resource? We explore the conditions under which oil rents accrue to violent nonstate actors by disaggregating the oil supply chain. We argue that territorial control by states and insurgent groups shapes how oil is looted. It is more likely to be looted at the extraction and refinement phases in insurgent-controlled zones. In zones that are contested between the state and insurgents, oil is more likely to be looted at the transportation phase. Oil looting is rare in state-controlled zones, but never fully eradicated. Corporate and government corruption reduces risk for looters and enables the expansion of theft operations. We explore these arguments with a comparative analysis of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta in Nigeria.
"Notable Networks: Elite Recruitment, Organizational Cohesiveness, and Islamist Electoral Success in Turkey," Politics & Society, vol.43, no.3, September 2015, 385-413.
How do Islamists get non-Islamists to vote for them? The existing literature suggests that what drives support for Islamist parties are macro-social transformations, Islamic culture, or Islamist party moderation. These approaches do not explain the variation in Islamist electoral performance. Why do Islamists win elections in some but not in other, very similar, contexts? This article identifies the important role of local elite recruitment and organizational cohesiveness in Islamist electoral performance. It applies the subnational comparative method to demonstrate the causal mechanisms linking local party organizations to Islamist electoral success. Empirical evidence is drawn from in-depth studies of the Justice and Development Party's (AKP) local branches in three closely-matched pairs of cities in Turkey. The findings bridge the literatures on political Islam and party politics with a new theory of Islamist electoral strategy and performance.
"Reconfiguring State‒Business Relations in Turkey: Housing and Hydroelectric Energy Sectors in Comparative Perspective," Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, vol. 20, no.4, 2018, 373-387.
This article examines the transformation in Turkey’s political economy by focusing on state‒business relations in two key economic sectors: housing and energy. The housing sector experienced an unprecedented rise in state intervention, while the hydroelectricity sector witnessed large-scale privatization. Seemingly contradictory policies across these two sectors pose a puzzle: why did the Turkish government, well-known for its neoliberal orientation, bring the state into the economy as a producer in the housing sector, while privatizing the hydroelectricity sector? This article argues that the underlying pattern in Turkey’s contemporary political economy is the growth of state‒business collaboration. Ruling party elites generated new avenues for public‒private collaboration in both sectors and blurred the boundaries between the state and the market. The article traces the role of private companies in the Housing Development Administration’s (Toplu Konut İdaresi, TOKİ) construction contracts, and the role of the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (Devlet Su İşleri Genel Müdürlüğü, DSİ) in creating a new market in hydroelectricity production.
"Politics in the Kurdish Periphery: Clan Networks and Local Party Strategies in a Comparative Perspective," Middle Eastern Studies, vol.53, no.4, 2017, 571-584.
Despite the return to violence and state repression in the Kurdish conflict, the ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party – AKP) has remained the only alternative to the Kurdish National Movement (KNM) for Turkey's Kurdish citizens. What local-level strategies did the AKP employ in Kurdish areas to reinforce its national-level appeal to Islamic values? Under what conditions did local vote-seeking strategies help the AKP to overcome its pro-Kurdish rivals at the ballot box? This article examines the politics of local coalition building in the periphery of the Kurdish landscape – Bingöl and Muş. Despite their many similarities, the two cities voted for different political parties in national elections. This article examines how the AKP's local party organizations interacted with local authority structures, recruited influential local elites, and pursued new voters. The vitality of clan networks in parts of Bingöl enabled the AKP to build a reliable local coalition. The gradual weakening of clan networks in Muş and their permeation by the KNM prevented a similar coalition. Instead, the parties of the KNM were able to take advantage of divided clan networks to win national electoral contests in the province.
"Islamist Politics in Migrant Cities: Local Identity Cleavages and Intra-Party Politics in Turkey," British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 43, no. 4, October 2016, 661-682
This article explores how the local party organisations of the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party - AKP) interact with complex social structures in migrant-receiving cities in Turkey. Islamist movements are widely viewed as uniquely capable of appealing to working-class migrants. However, the support for Islamist parties varies across migrant receiving cities. I argue that local party organisations face two potential sources of discord that they have to resolve in order to build support in migrant neighborhoods. They have to bridge the regional identity cleavages among different migrant communities while surmounting intra-party conflicts. In pursuing this argument, this article opens up the black box of local identity politics in the industrial heartland of Turkey and provides an ethnographic account of intra-party conflicts and political survival within the AKP.
"Islamist mobilisation in secularist strongholds: institutional change and electoral performance in Turkey," South European Society and Politics, vol. 22, no. 1, 2017, 61-80.
How do Islamist parties mobilise support and win elections in secularist strongholds? What explains the electoral performance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey’s most consistently secularist region – western Anatolia? This article explores these questions with a comparative case study of two similar cities in the periphery of İzmir where the AKP registered significantly different electoral results: Ödemiş and Salihli. It shows that deep institutional transformations of the local party organisations, including leadership turnover, reshuffling of the party cadres, and an explicit attempt by local party leaders to moderate and move to the political centre, were necessary factors for the AKP to succeed in elections where the Islamist constituency is weak.
"Channeling Islam: Religious Narratives on Pakistani Television and Their Influence on Pakistani Youth," Asian Affairs: An American Review, Volume 43, Issue 3, 2016, 78-97. (with Yelena Biberman and Sahar Gul)
Pakistan's religious television programs have drawn significant attention in both academic and policy circles. However, there has been surprisingly little systematic analysis of their content and influence. This article shows that, although the televangelists featured on the Pakistani television channels present some of the most conservative views regarding the role of women and religious minorities in society and the role of Islam in governance, Pakistani television is an arena of contestation. The impact of the lively debates between televangelists on young viewers—over whom the ideological battles are being waged—is mixed. Findings from an original survey of Pakistani students and political activists suggest that young people in Pakistan watch religious shows only occasionally. Those that do, however, take them seriously. What leads young people to consume religion on television is a sense of social responsibility: that they are doing it not just for themselves, but also—and perhaps more importantly—for others, be it their families or communities.
"Political Entrepreneurs, Clientelism, and Civil Society: Supply-Side Politics in Turkey," Democratization, vol.23, no.4, 2016, 723-746.
How do citizens in developing democracies launch political careers? Despite the large literature on electoral politics in developing countries, we know surprisingly little about how individuals become political candidates. This article examines an important mechanism of political recruitment in developing democracies -- party-civil society organization (CSO) linkages. Existing theories treat CSOs as arenas of civic participation rather than as political agents in their own right, which leads scholars to overlook their impact on electoral competition. This article argues that the distinct resource portfolios of CSOs influence their relative impact on candidate selection, and consequently, local politics. CSOs that represent the material interests of their constituents, such as resource-rich business groups and vote-rich identity groups, have significant influence over candidate selection. Issue-oriented CSOs tend to have less impact. Party-CSO relations often facilitate clientelist linkages between parties and voters, weakening democratic governance. Evidence is provided with an in-depth case study of CSO-political party relations in the industrial periphery of Istanbul, Turkey. The empirical findings come from extensive fieldwork in the region during five field trips between 2007 and 2015.
"One Shield, Two Responses: Explaining the Opposition to the United States Missile Defense Shield," Politics & Policy, vol. 43, no. 2, April 2015, 197–214. (with Yelena Biberman)
What is the role of civil society in geopolitical conflict? The crisis in Ukraine has, once again, raised questions over security in the postcommunist world. This article examines the puzzling variation in the anti-missile defense shield protests in the Czech Republic and Poland (2007-2009) to elucidate the conditions under which civil society emerges as a significant actor in international politics. Activists in the Czech Republic staged seven times as many anti-shield protests as their Polish counterparts despite the two countries’ similar levels of popular opposition to the project. We show that the variation in the responses of the Polish and Czech activists resulted from the different material and legacy-driven ideological constraints faced by the civil society organizations. The findings suggest that the scholarship on contentious civic activism should take organization-level opportunities and constraints seriously when analyzing the impact of civil society on political processes.