I am a political scientist working on political parties, social policy and democratic decline, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. I received my PhD in political science from Harvard University Government Department (July 2021). During the 2021-2022 academic year, I am a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL).
My dissertation/book project explores the reasons behind the weak electoral appeal of secular parties in the Middle East after the popular uprisings of 2011-2013 and why they could not form a robust electoral alternative to Islamist parties. I undertake a close case analysis of two large secular parties in the region, Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) in Turkey and Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia), and exploit the subnational variation to test various hypotheses. I find that, unlike many conventional expectations, valence deficit and inability of secular parties to signal good governance credentials are among the main causes of secular disadvantage. The valence deficit stems from negative political selection and problems in organizational cohesion, i.e. inability of social networks within the party organization to cooperate effectively.
The data for this project comes from interviews with party elites and candidates, novel and large-scale candidate surveys, and contemporaneous household surveys in both countries. Data collection was supported by Democracy International, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Institute for Quantitative Social Science and Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.
My other current projects explore how parties and charities engage in and affect the quality of primary healthcare in Lebanon, the role of international organizations in social policies for refugees, and citizens’ responses to autocrats’ assaults on democratic institutions.
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HIGHLIGHT: NEW PAPER
ON DEMOCRATIC DECLINE IN TURKEY
How Voters Respond to Presidential Assaults on Checks and Balances: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Turkey
(with Alper Yagci and Daniel Ziblatt)
Comparative Political Studies, 2022
Why do voters support executive aggrandizement? One possible answer is that they do so because they think this will ease their preferred leader’s hand in putting their partisan vision into action, provided that the leader will continue winning elections. We study this phenomenon through a survey experiment in Turkey, by manipulating voters’ perceptions about the potential results of the first presidential election after a constitutional referendum of executive aggrandizement. We find that voters from both sides display what we call “elastic support” for executive aggrandizement; that is, they change previously revealed constitutional preferences in response to varying winning chances. This elasticity increases not only when citizens feel greater social distance to perceived political “others” (i.e., affective polarization) but also when voters are concerned about economic management in a potential post-incumbent era. Our findings contribute to the literature on how polarization and economic anxiety contribute to executive aggrandizement and democratic backsliding.