National Science Centre

Project no. 2016/21/B/HS5/00074 “Between Fair and Rigged. Elections as a Key Determinant of the ‘Borderline Political Regime’ - Turkey in Comparative Perspective” (Programme OPUS 11, Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, University of Warsaw)

Duration: February 2017- January 2019

Group’s members who take part in the project: Prof. Adam Szymański – principal investigator,  Jakub Wódka, PhD - investigator

Brief description of the project:

Objectives of the research project/research hypothesis

Whereas the number of countries holding free, regular elections has been on the rise in the last four decades, the phenomenon of electoral malpractice and manipulations has been spreading as well. The analysis of the “menu of electoral manipulation” in the long electoral cycle and its impact on the functioning of political regimes and the process of democratisation is the main goal of the research project. The particular focus is on the issue of competitiveness of elections which is indispensable for the existence of one of the so-called electoral regimes – democratic, hybrid or competitive authoritarianism. The case study is the Republic of Turkey in comparative perspective (the comparison mainly with the East European and Latin American states), in the years 2002-2015 (the period of ruling of the Justice and Development Party), as one of the best cases to indicate electoral malpractice and its impact on the political regime. The research is aimed at verifying a few hypotheses assuming first of all that the electoral malpractice caused mainly by the deficit of the democratic culture of elites leads to the existence in practice of the so-called “borderline regimes” which are balancing between hybrid and authoritarian regimes of the new type but due to the increasing scope and variety of the electoral manipulations are approaching gradually the latter type.

Methodology of the research project

The qualitative methods prevail in the research project. The comparative analysis with the case study of Turkey as the hardest one will be based in the theoretical sphere on the framework of categories of the electoral malpractice and types of electoral manipulations. This shows the domination in the research of the new institutionalism which will be useful also in the context of the analysis of change of regimes influenced by the electoral malpractice, thanks to the possible use of the so-called “theories of institutional change”. A useful tool in the empirical dimension will be a set of different electoral and democracy databases/reports. They will help to identify the place of Turkey on the continuum – electoral integrity – lack of electoral integrity (fair vs. rigged elections) and to find similar cases which will be analyzed in the last part of the research. An indispensible tool will be also the in-depth interviews with: the Turkish politicians; representatives of the international organizations monitoring elections (ODIHR, Council of Europe); representatives of the organizations and institutions controlling the course of elections in Turkey (e.g. High Election Commission – YSK), experts in election law, elections and democratization in Turkey, Turkish journalists and the political marketing experts. The additional methods are the system and decision analyses.

Expected impact of the research project on the development of science, civilization and society

The research project will be significant both in the theoretical and empirical dimension. In the first case it will contribute to the development of: 1) theoretical research within the Polish political science on the electoral malpractice; 2) rare studies on the relationship between malpractice and type of the political regime thanks to proposing a new concept of “borderline regimes” and their dynamics depending on the “menu of electoral manipulation” and 3) the theoretical model concerning the assessment of the electoral integrity in regimes other than democratic ones. The research project will also contribute to the development of the empirical studies on elections and electoral practices in Turkey. It will be a comprehensive research embracing subsequent parliamentary elections since 2002, the electoral manipulations observed within these elections and their possible influence on the changes of the political system and, in result - political regime in Turkey. Moreover, the research will present the rarely considered comparative perspective. The research project will also include the forecast of the possible paths of development of the “borderline regimes”. In addition, results of the studies will be useful from the practical point of view, having significance for the voting act and democratic culture of citizens as well as for different national organizations working in the field of democratisation and the international or national organizations monitoring elections.

For more, see:


Project no. 2015/17/D/HS5/00442 “Differentiated integration, Turkish accession prospects and EU geopolitics” (Programme SONATA 9, Polish Academy of Science)

Duration: 2016-2018

Group’s members who take part in the project: Jakub Wódka, PhD - principal investigator, Prof. Adam Szymański - investigator

Brief description of the project:

Project objectives/ Research hypothesis

The project aims at contributing research to theoretical analysis of EU enlargement and neighbourhood policies, while empirically focusing on the example of EU-Turkey relations. The main research question is as follows: Considering the changes within the EU and the stalled accession process of Turkey, in what ways could a strategic and sustainable partnership between Brussels and Ankara be built, so that it allows for coordinated and coherent policy towards the shared neighbourhood in turmoil?

The main thesis runs as follows: in the face of 1) fundamental changes in the model of European integration; 2) actual freezing of the Turkey’s accession process; 3) dynamic changes in the common neighbourhood and the resulting challenge to define a new policy towards the region both for the EU and Turkey, it is imperative to look for new formats of EU-Turkey strategic partnership beyond the traditional paradigm of the enlargement policy.

Research methodology

The theoretical framework applied within this project combines a number of theoretical perspectives, including neo-functionalism, realism, liberal intergovernmentalism and historical institutionalism as all these approaches help explain various aspects of internal developments in the European Union, evolution of EU-Turkey relations, as well as policies of both actors at the regional and global level. Qualitative methods related to the theoretical framework will be used, such as process-tracing method or decision method. The scenarios of further development of Turkey-EU relations will be prepared with the use of such IR forecasts methods as extrapolation, analogy or heuristic methods.

An empirical analysis will be carried out using qualitative methods and most importantly by means of semistructured in-depth interviews with Turkish, EU and member-states decision-makers as interviewees. Additionally, existing primary and secondary sources in Polish, Turkish, English, German and French will be thoroughly scrutinized.

Impact of the research project

The added value of this project stems from the fact that it examines differentiation beyond the euro zone (economic policies) and focuses on differentiation in the external policy realm. Differentiation dynamics point to inadequacy of conceiving EU membership in binary, zero – one terms (full membership vs. nonmembership) and ask for more innovative, original and up-to-date approaches to the EU relations with its important, strategic partners. There is lack of any academic research which would bring together the three levels of analysis: 1) differentiated integration 2) the deadlock in EU-Turkey relations and the rising euroscepticism in Turkey 3) destabilization of EU and Turkey’s shared neighbourhood. Consequently, the project research findings will significantly enrich both the theoretical and empirical study of EU’s global role in the context of the stalled enlargement process and the destabilization of the southern and Eastern neighbourhood of EU and Turkey. The academic ambition of the project is to establish a comprehensive and coherent theoretical model defining the areas of cooperation of the EU with its strategic partners, in the realm of external policy.