Where the AKP Stands: A Manifesto-Based Approach to Party Competition in Turkey

Salih Bayram

Abstract: Using the Manifesto Project’s dataset, this article considers two questions: Where does the AKP stand vis-à-vis other parties in Turkey? What were the dynamics of party competition in recent Turkish elections? With regards to the first question, the article finds that the AKP’s manifestos are closer to those of center-right parties in Turkey, rather than to those of Islamist parties. It also finds that in the AKP’s overall discourse, the most important and persistent element is a focus on technocratic issues, referring to promises such as more investment in education, cultural activities, and technology and infrastructure, which are relatively uncontroversial in Turkey. With regards to the second question, the main finding of the paper is that dramatic re-arrangements happened in the relative positions of the parties, mostly involving the CHP (the main opposition party) which experienced major shifts in its attitude towards nationalism and new left issues in each of the last two elections. The AKP and the MHP increasingly became more nationalist in successive elections in the 2000s, and all parties put increasingly more emphasis on technocratic issues, reflecting a fierce competition in that field.

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