Friendship, kingship and interest: Informal politics in Turkey and the Example of Vote Mobilization in Istanbul and Sanliurfa

Michelangelo Guida
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Turkish politics is directed through 'informal' tools and informal relations. My paper will attempt to understand more in depth some aspects of informal politics in the Turkish context with two case studies. The first example is built on 2009 electoral campaign in Istanbul's district of Üsküdar. The results of a field work and a survey in the district clearly show that the parties' strategies are built on a friendly relation with voters rather than on a formal campaign. Presents, a chat around a glass of black tea, hemŞehri networks, and women networks appear to be much more influential than any media strategy. Indeed, voters do not recall even the slogans of the political parties. The second case shows the influence of 'chieftains' (ağa) in the Şanlıurfa province on electoral behaviours; the power of the 'chieftains' seems to be deriving from a mix of coercion, well rooted values of respect and tribal loyalty, and strong ties with the central authority. Even if this system often results in the imposition of unequal social relations, it appears to be widely accepted by the broader society through a validation process instigated by its democratic connotation. In this sense, with transformations in the demographic, social, economic and political spheres, tribal identities as well as hemŞehri networks did not disappear but evolved into a functional network of patronage. An analysis of patronage and informal relations as well as their influence on political mobilisation may lead to a more informed understanding of political practices in Turkey, and to a specific assessment of the influence of informal politics upon electoral behaviours.


Voting Behaviour, Istanbul, Şanlıurfa, Informality

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