Microscope, By Taptuk Emre Erkoç
Policy formation by political parties in accordance with the interests of citizens has always been a challenging topic in the literature of political economy. During the decision-making period in the administrative bodies of political parties, particularly during elections, the first and foremost target is to find out the best way to catch and retain voters’ attention. Among the best-known explanations of this process is the ‘median voter theorem’ The median vote theory corresponds to policy-making decisions based on the preferences of the central (or median) voter in a ranking of voters within a single policy dimension. This theorem states that the success of a candidate is contingent upon situating him or herself as close as possible to the median voter’s preference.
Although this theorem has a number of technical weaknesses, it outlines the process of decisionmaking within political parties in quite a reasonable way. On the other hand, there are political parties whose discourses and practices in the political arena cannot be explained by median voter analysis. The “gatekeeping model” in the literature is the best-fit theoretical extension to account for the nonmedian status preferred by some political parties in certain cases. In such circumstances, gatekeepers are inclined to close the gates to the demands of median voters (the majority of citizens) so as to maintain the status quo.
The Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) has swung back and forth between these aforementioned notions. Whereas the median voter theorem corresponds to the leftist aspect of the party, and the idea that it takes middle- and lower-class citizens’ choices into account, the notion of gatekeeping comes into play in the party’s managerial cadre wish to back the elite’s status quo, which it sees itself as a founding element of. As indicated in Table 1, the historical record reveals that the CHP increases its votes in elections when its discourses become more democratic and citizen-orientated. At the beginning of the 1970s, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, the CHP gained momentum and raised its share of the vote to 42 percent, after having stayed under 30 percent throughout the multi-party period in Turkey. Eventually, it entirely altered its political rhetoric and aligned itself to the status quo once again when it eventually reformed after being dissolved in the wake of the 1980 military coup.
The crucial dimension in this dichotomy of being the gatekeeper of the status quo and appealing to the
THERE ARE POLITICAL PARTIES WHOSE BEHAVIOR CANNOT BE EXPLAINED BY MEDIAN VOTER ANALYSIS