Published: 10/05/2023
Where and why—and how—does the Turkish diaspora vote?
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) face a significant challenge in the Turkish national elections on 14 May. With opposition parties in Turkey more united than they’ve been in a decade and the country still reeling from the aftermath of February’s catastrophic earthquakes, Erdoğan is at distinct risk of losing the presidency despite a decade of consolidating power.   One voting bloc that could make the difference for Erdoğan and the AKP is the diaspora population, which constitutes five per cent of Turkey’s electorate. Turkish expatriates around the world played a key role in the 2014 and 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections, and their votes helped secure approval of the expansion of presidential powers in a critical 2017 constitutional referendum, according to some analysts.   The graph below shows that in the 2018 parliamentary elections, in most Western European countries, the greatest share of the Turkish expat electorate voted for the AKP.   While other parties also court the overseas vote, President Erdoğan has a history of close engagement with the Turkish diaspora, whose total population comprises more than 6.5 million people, with the vast majority living in Western Europe. For the better part of a decade, Erdoğan and the AKP have prioritised the maintenance of close ties with the Turkish diaspora, delivering speeches to rallies of Turkish expats from Cologne to Dusseldorf, as well as relying on sister associations abroad to imitate campaign strategies used in Turkey. As well as serving electoral purposes, these strategies have encouraged Turkish expats to “assimilate but not integrate” and to prioritise their Turkish identity.   Turkey began allowing expat citizens to vote in national elections in 1995. The process of voting from abroad has gradually changed over time; a fundamental shift occurred in May 2012, when an amendment to the electoral law allowed for expats to vote in their country of residence. The new amendment was implemented in Turkey’s 2014 presidential elections, which then-Prime Minister Erdoğan won. The new provisions led to an increase in voter turnout among the Turkish diaspora electorate in 2014, which then rose sharply in the 2015 general election.   Other factors that may influence Turkish expat voting include:  Identity: Erdoğan has been keen to foster a sense of connection to Turkish identity, which has brought many benefits, including close community and strong cultural links between Turks abroad, while also allowing the mechanisms of state influence to permeate borders. A 2020 survey of Turkish citizens in Austria, France, Germany and the Netherlands found that Turkish language media dominates the diaspora’s information ecosystem, particularly among older and less highly educated demographics. Erdoğan’s influence over the information space was further consolidated by the October 2022 “disinformation” law, prohibiting the spread of information that causes fear or panic among the public and can be the pretext for jailing journalists and social media users.  Representation: Limited political representation in the country of residence, particularly for those lacking citizenship in the host country, can lead expats to engage in the politics of their home countries to find means of participation. A correlation has been shown between Turkish expats who are more engaged in Turkish national politics and lower levels of attachment to their host state.   Religion and ethnicity: These factors can also be important predictors of voting behaviour. Erdoğan’s rhetoric has long emphasised Islamophobia in European countries. This tactic has proven successful in attracting diaspora votes from Muslim conservatives in previous elections, especially as members of the diaspora face discrimination and racism in their host countries, including in the labour market and in finding housing. At the same time, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has given indirect support to opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, which will likely speak to the sizeable Kurdish population abroad.  Turkey is not an isolated case; there are other examples from around the world of diaspora voting being conservatively skewed, including in Hungary and Pakistan. However, the ruling coalition may face an uphill battle in Sunday’s vote, as a united opposition, a much criticised earthquake response, and an ongoing economic crisis make the race exceedingly close as Election Day approaches.
Democracy Notes
Published: 09/05/2023
Can Turkey have credible elections? What the data reveal
All eyes will be on Turkey when voters go to the polls on 14 May. This election, pitting incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been described as the most important election of 2023. There are high stakes, not least because it’s the first time in over 20 years that Erdoğan’s appeal in Turkey appears to have waned and that his defeat is no longer inconceivable.   Amid Erdoğan’s two decades of consolidated power and the dismantling of democratic norms in Turkey, there are questions about whether these elections can be credible and if the opposition stands a chance under these circumstances.   Opposition on the rise  There are signals that Erdoğan’s repression tactics are losing power, especially in a context marked by a plunging economy, rampant inflation, a collapsing currency, and the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquakes. As shown by most polls, public opinion has shifted toward the opposition, whose supporters might be too loud and too numerous to be defeated. Erdoğan is now competing against a six-party, more unified opposition led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, an anti-corruption bureaucrat backed by Istanbul's popular mayor İmamoğlu and his Ankara counterpart, Mansur Yavaş. The opposition is also backed by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and influential Kurdish politicians, who could make up between 15 to 20 per cent of the electorate. Notably as well, Erdoğan’s opponents won most major cities in 2019’s local elections.   While Turkish voters have been polarized for years, and the elections may yet be held under unfair conditions with profound incumbency advantages, a strong, unified, and mobilized opposition has made competitive elections plausible, marking a critical juncture for Turkey’s future.  A Decade of Decline for Representation in Turkey  Global State of Democracy Indices data show regressions in all indicators related to elections since 2012. Issues such as credible elections and free political parties are part of the electoral cycle and are vital to the overall election assessment.  Source: Global State of Democracy Indices  Over the last 10 years, International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy (GSoD) Indices have shown a significant decline in clean elections in Turkey, particularly in factors such as the autonomy and capacity of electoral management bodies. The data also prompt questions about voting irregularities, government intimidation, and whether elections are credible. Observers also criticized the last election, held in 2018, for undue advantages favouring Erdoğan’s Justice and Development (AKP) ruling party, including excessive coverage by public and government-affiliated private media. In the lead-up to 14 May, it will be especially important to watch the media and freedom of political parties.    Crackdowns on media and other institutions  Reporters Without Borders estimates that 90% of the national media is under Erdoğan’s control. Over the years, Erdoğan’s administration has blocked access to social media, especially during critical moments such as the Gezi Park protests in 2013, the 2022 explosion in Istanbul and the February 2023 earthquake, the deadliest natural disaster in the country’s modern history. Following the earthquake, the government heavily sanctioned and fined the media for their coverage, particularly those bringing attention to the authorities’ responsibility for the quality of buildings that led to the high death toll, and the inadequate emergency response. Authorities have also arrested and sentenced activists and journalists, and the country’s parliament has passed a new ‘disinformation’ law in 2022, which has been criticized for cracking down on dissent ahead of the 2023 elections. The government has similar control over electoral authorities, public resources and institutions. The state budget has been an important platform for Erdoğan ahead of these elections as he announced a broad range of benefits, from a rise in wages to dropping the retirement age.  Unfree political parties    The GSoDI have also shown a significant drop in free political parties in Turkey over the last 10 years, with declines in the freedom to form parties, the autonomy of opposition parties, and electoral competitiveness.   Although Turkey’s political opposition remains strong in major urban centers, it deals with significant electoral challenges. In 2018, election observers with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) declared that opposition parties were denied equal conditions for campaigning. With courts under his control, Erdoğan also employed more extreme tactics to sideline his opponents ahead of the 2023 elections. A court ruling sentenced Istanbul’s Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu to two years and seven months in prison and banned him from political activity. Human Rights Watch called the verdict an “unjustified and politically calculated assault on Turkey’s political opposition.” Just as important is the new electoral law that was passed in 2022, which has been criticized for favouring AKP and its allies and for working against the opposition. The written opinion of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission said the law could hinder inclusive democracy and the impartiality of elections, making it more difficult for smaller and newer parties to enter the parliament.  
Published: 27/04/2023
Explicamos: Elecciones 2023 en Paraguay  
El 30 de abril, casi cinco millones de paraguayos acudirán a las urnas para renovar la casi totalidad del poder político en el país.  ¿Qué se elige? ¿Qué está en juego? ¿Qué retos nos esperan y qué se puede hacer para enfrentarlos? Para entender mejor la próxima elección, esta y otras preguntas ameritan una mirada más cercana.  ¿Qué se elige?  Este domingo se llevarán a cabo elecciones generales en las que elegirá a un presidente, un vicepresidente, 17 gobernadores, 45 senadores, 80 diputados y 257 miembros de las juntas departamentales para un periodo de cinco años, entre 2023 y 2028.  Las elecciones presidenciales se celebran en única vuelta, donde el ganador es el candidato con el mayor número de votos. Este es el octavo proceso electoral desde que el país transitó a la democracia en 1989.  ¿Qué está en juego?  Además de la gran cantidad de posiciones en disputa – para las que más de 9,000 personas se han registrado como candidatas- esta elección decide la permanencia en el poder del Partido Colorado. Este Partido ha gobernado el país desde 1947, incluyendo durante la dictadura militar, convirtiéndose en parte clave del sistema político del país—uno de los más antiguos de América Latina. La excepción a esto fue el periodo 2008-2013 cuando Fernando Lugo, obispo católico ajeno al sistema de partidos tradicional, obtuvo la presidencia, impulsado por una coalición diversa de partidos políticos de izquierda, algo inédito en el país. Ahora, en 2023, una nueva coalición heterogénea busca derrotar al Partido Colorado. La ‘Concertación por un Nuevo Paraguay’ aglutina a 23 partidos y 2 movimientos entre los que destacan el Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico, Patria Querida y el Movimiento Despertar. Su candidato presidencial es Efraín Alegre, Ministro de Obras del ex Presidente Lugo, con larga trayectoria política y candidato presidencial por tercera ocasión (contendió también en 2013 y 20181). Por el Partido Colorado, el candidato es Santiago Peña, ex miembro del Banco Central del Paraguay, Ministro de Hacienda  del ex presidente Horacio Cartes, y precandidato presidencial en 2017. El país se encuentra en medio de una guerra de encuestas que dificulta cualquier predicción.  ¿Cuál es la calidad de las elecciones en Paraguay? De acuerdo con datos de los Indices Globales del Estado de la Democracia de IDEA Internacional, Paraguay registra un desempeño medio en el atributo de Gobierno Representativo. Este atributo mide la calidad de aspectos como gobierno electo, sufragio universal, partidos políticos libres y elecciones limpias. Como lo muestra la gráfica 1, Paraguay ha tenido grandes avances, especialmente desde 1989, cuando un golpe de estado concluyó la dictadura del General Alfredo Stroessner, quien gobernó al país manipulando elecciones y reprimiendo la crítica por 35 largos años.  Gráfica 1.  Gobierno Representativo en Paraguay, 1975-2022 Fuente: índices del Estado Global de la Democracia, IDEA Internacional  En cuanto al indicador de elecciones limpias, que evalúa el grado de competencia entre partidos políticos, la presencia de irregularidades en el proceso electoral y la capacidad y autonomía del órgano electoral, entre otros, Paraguay tiene aún áreas de oportunidad. En el contexto regional, como lo indica la gráfica 2 a continuación, Paraguay supera a Bolivia pero aún se encuentra detrás de naciones como Ecuador y Colombia.   Gráfica 2.  Elecciones Limpias en Sudamérica, 1975-2022  Fuente: índices del Estado Global de la Democracia, IDEA Internacional  ¿Qué novedades trae este proceso electoral?  Entre las innovaciones del proceso electoral destacan una nueva ley de financiamiento político y, sobre todo, la introducción del voto preferente, que fragiliza el control partidario sobre la oferta electoral y aumenta la competencia entre candidaturas encareciendo también, notablemente, los costos de campaña. A lo anterior se suma la incorporación del voto electrónico, que si bien agiliza el cómputo electoral, es aún desconocido por muchos, especialmente considerando la brecha digital y generacional, lo que ha llevado al Tribunal Superior de Justicia Electoral (TSJE) a crear un útil simulador para familiarizarse con el sistema. A semanas de la elección, algunos actores han buscado generar dudas, con acusaciones que se dirigen al componente tecnológico.   ¿Cuáles son los retos para estas elecciones generales?  Como se señaló, se han sembrado dudas sobre la certeza del proceso electoral. Ante esto, facilitar acceso a la información, a los procedimientos y a la toma de decisiones permite disipar sospechas y rumores, y en su caso, corregir fallos. Es por ello, que IDEA Internacional ha promovido una observación electoral nacional capacitada, profesional e independiente en el país, articulada alrededor de Saka, la plataforma histórica de la observación en Paraguay. Se desplegarán alrededor de 800 voluntarios en los 17 departamentos y se monitoreará la jornada de votación, desde la apertura de las mesas hasta un cómputo rápido de la contienda presidencial.