This dissertation examines how Islamist parties mobilize new constituencies after they join elections. Existing studies have focused extensively on macro-social factors to explain the growth in support for Islamist political parties and movements in Muslim majority states, but they fail to account for the cases of Islamist electoral failure as well as the variation in their sub-national electoral performance. These studies also do not examine how practical concerns about vote-seeking transform Islamist parties. My dissertation fills this gap in the literature by analyzing the processes through which the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party - AKP) in Turkey expanded its electoral appeal beyond its core constituency to swing voters, and proceeded to win local and national elections in Turkey. I address an empirical question with theoretical implications: What explains the variation in the electoral success of the AKP in cities that share extensive similarities in terms of relevant macro-social variables? How did the Turkish Islamists appeal to large groups of voters in some cities, but not in their matched pairs? I examine the causes of this variation through a quasi-experimental research design which systematically compares within-case and cross-case disparities in local elite recruitment and intraparty politics of the Islamist AKP. I demonstrate that the AKP’s strategic local notable incorporation at the city level and the cohesiveness of its party organizations explain the success and failure of the Islamists at the ballot box, and the variation in its electoral support. I also demonstrate that the processes through which the AKP engaged in elite recruitment and party building were dissimilar across sub-national units due to different socio-structural contexts the party faced in each locality. The original data utilized in this dissertation comes from interviews with Islamist, Kurdish, and mainstream Turkish politicians, civil society activists, and local bureaucrats; participant observation in Islamist electoral campaigns; and from the examination of local newspapers during a year-long field research conducted in eight different cities in Turkey.
"Electing the Pious: Islamist Politics and Local Party Strategies in Turkey"
Political Science Theses and Dissertations.
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