Clientelism and Voting Behavior: Empirical Evidence from Turkey

48 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2022

See all articles by Murat Abus

Murat Abus

Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University

Date Written: June 16, 2022


Democratic accountability posits that the incumbent parties are held accountable for their performances in office and can be voted out as the ultimate sanction. However, poorly performing parties continue to win elections mainly in developing countries and this trend might facilitate democratic backsliding. This study examines the question from the perspective of clientelism in Turkey as it is one of the worst cases of autocratization and has been ruled by the same party since 2002. The electoral victories in the later part of the AKP rule happened against the backdrop of increase in inequality and economic crises. When tangible benefits offered by the incumbent are important enough to drive voting behavior, they need to be evaluated alongside other explanations. An analysis of survey data from 2016 and 2017 reveals that perceptions of social supports that were started or expanded during the AKP rule have a significant effect on voting behavior and this provides a glimpse into a continuing clientelist linkage in action. Such linkages have possible deleterious effects on democratization through the subversion of democratic accountability.

Keywords: clientelism, electoral authoritarianism, democratic backsliding, democratic accountability, Turkey

Suggested Citation

Abus, Murat, Clientelism and Voting Behavior: Empirical Evidence from Turkey (June 16, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Murat Abus (Contact Author)

Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University ( email )

College Station, TX
United States

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