Tough Love: The Complementarity of Repression and Co-optation in Authoritarian Survival
Education as a Contentious Public Good: Evidence from Religious Schooling in Turkey (with Kristin Fabbe and Amaney Jamal)
Secularization in the Minaret's Shadow: Group Identity and Religious Skepticism in the Contemporary MENA Region (with Hani Warith)
How can we explain precipitous declines in religiosity in the MENA region? Relying on religious cleavages in Turkey, we study the relationship between political polarization along the Islamist-Secularist cleavage and religiosity. Our results demonstrate that political polarization considerably decreases religiosity, and this association is robust to various measures of polarization and estimation models. While the effects of polarization are significant throughout Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule, they have accelerated since the 2016 coup. We also maintain that these effects are driven by partisanship: while Secularists have become more distanced from religion, their AKP counterparts have become moderately more religious. Surprisingly, these polarizing consequences hold among both the youth and older individuals. We argue that our results reflect social identity dynamics and specifically the increased salience and polarization of ‘Secularist’ and ‘Islamist’ identities. This study shows how political polarization can drive social change in developing societies, initiating a short term secularization process.
Competing at the Root: How Local-Level Associational Competition Fuels Politics in Hybrid Regimes (with Hani Warith)
How do local-level dynamics affect the trajectory of competitive authoritarian and other hybrid regimes? The literature on competitive authoritarianism has decisively established the ways in which incumbent leaders within such regimes have strategized to undermine democracy (Levitsky and Way 2002). In contrast, there are few theoretical tools and sparse empirical evidence on the impacts of local officials on the trajectories of hybrid regimes. We argue that mayors play a critical role in shaping Turkey’s regime, showing that supply-side dynamics, mainly AKP mayors’ motivation for seeking higher office and political conflict between the AKP and their rivals, create incentives for local level actors to transform Turkey’s associational landscape. Employing municipality-level evidence, we show that a dogged competition between the Justice and Development Party (the AKP) mayors and their political rivals has transformed the associational landscape in Turkey. Leveraging a regression discontinuity design, we analyze close elections and show that religious associations proliferate in the wake of AKP victories. When the Republican People’s Party (the CHP), the main secular opposition party, manage to capture office, we observe a growth in business and commercial associations. In contrast, we find limited evidence on demand-based explanations. Supplementing our main results with interviews and descriptive statistics based on legislative data, we illustrate the importance of these local level changes to the dynamics of the AKP regime more broadly.
Sacred Manipulations: Strategic Deployment of Mosques in Turkey
What are the underlying political motivations driving the construction of mosques in authoritarian countries? To address this inquiry, I rely on a unique dataset that meticulously tracks the annual issuance of construction permits for mosques in Turkey, along with their corresponding funding sources. Employing a regression discontinuity design, I provide evidence presenting the central government's strategic focus on constructing mosques in electorally competitive opposition districts, when compared with electorally competitive incumbent districts. However, such targeting patterns are not observed for mosques funded by municipalities or private entities. Further analysis reveals that the content of Friday sermons delivered in these mosques bears a resemblance to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speeches, particularly during electoral periods, when compared to the speeches of the opposition's leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. These findings shed light on how sacred places, such as mosques, can be manipulated to serve autocrats' political agendas.