How do populists use diversity to win elections? Case of Turkey


– Now we are going into a lot of details… – Yeah. – We cannot really say
diversity is good for populism or diversity is bad for populism. But what we can say is that diversity is a tactical resource that populist parties
or movements can deploy to mobilize electorate. Drawing on the work of a
sociologist Rogers Brubaker at the UCLA, it is probably also useful to think of the idea of
“the people” at two levels. So, on the one hand populists have a vertical construction
of the idea of the people, where the people, the
morally superior people, are against a corrupt elite. On the other hand, they
also construct the people in a rather horizontal
way as against outsiders. In the case of continental
Europe, you see that a lot of
the populist discourse is coupled with an
anti-immigrant discourse. And the populists are complaining about the elites because elites
are defined as cosmopolitan, they are welcoming migrants in. Thus they position themselves against the cosmopolitan elite and thus see migration-related diversity as a threat to the well-being or the culture or the tradition of society. But if you look at how a populist leader such as Erdogan used diversity in his rhetoric, that was very different, especially during his second office between 2007 and 2012/13. There, you see he actually
used an inclusive form of rhetoric that enabled
him to also gather support from very different sectors of society including liberals and
Leftists and so on. But what united this
diverse set of groups was their opposition to the ruling hegemonic structures, such
as the military and so on. So in the Turkish example,
diversity played out very differently from
the way it played out in the European case. Thus we can’t really say that the relationship between diversity and populism is a predetermined one, but it’s very much shaped by the context. Turkey has a very complicated
history to say the least. Coming out of the multi-religious and the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire, the founding elites in the early 20th century,
imagined a very homogenous ethnic and religiously homogenous nation, Turkish nation. Thus the main elements of this nation were mainly defined by being a Turk and being a Sunni Muslim. Thus whoever didn’t fit
into that categorization, including for instance
Kurds, including Alevis, including non-Muslims such
as the Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Jews, Assyrians,
were left to the margins, if not left outside of
the national boundaries. The military is seen as a
responsible actor, if you will, for enacting this homogenous
imagination on the nation. So what Erdogan did, especially
during his second office, was to unite these
different groups together on the basis of an
anti-establishment discourse. Thus if the establishment is telling you that the Turkish nation is homogenous, Erdogan was saying, “Well, as a matter of
fact the Turkish nation “is quite heterogeneous
and we should embrace that “heterogeneity. So we should embrace “that multi-cultural heritage.” The limit to Erdogan’s
and any populist leader’s inclusionary rhetoric lies in whether they are able to accept demands coming from different
parts within society. Inclusive rhetoric is one thing and being able to respond
to collective demands or individual demands coming
from these various parts of the society is another thing. And there was definitely a
gap that is primary to do with what happened on June 7,
parliamentary elections. So that was, in a way,
the second moment when Erdogan had to make a choice. The first choice was made during Gezi when he responded with violence: the violent separation of the demonstrators, and
the second choice was made on the 7th of June in
2015, parliamentary elections: when he didn’t recognize
the election outcomes and went into a snap
election in November 2015.

Maurice Vega

3 Responses

  1. Asylum seekers can only be refugees in the first safe country. After that, they are just economic migrants. This isn't that hard to understand

  2. So sorry but us average Citizens don't want to live in an Islamic centered country or be overrun by millions of illegal African migrants from the 3rd world.
    if you rich well off people and educated elites want to live with Africans and Muslims to follow Mahummad why not just go to their countries?
    Why force everyone else to live with them here?

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