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


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