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Goals, research questions and hypotheses

Whereas the number of countries holding elections have been on the rise in the last four decades, the phenomenon of electoral malpractice and manipulations has been spreading as well, showing the possible dysfunctional role of election for the democratic character of the political system. This makes it necessary for the political scientists to look inside the box of the institution of elections and electoral practices. It is then less common area of studies on political regimes – the focus is on the access to power through elections, not on the exercise of power, thus working of the regime.

The analysis of the electoral manipulations at all stages of the electoral cycle, and its impact on the political regime and the democratization process is the main goal of the research project. The particular focus of the research will be on the issue of competitiveness of elections which is indispensable for the existence of one of the electoral type of regimes – democratic or hybrid (competitive authoritarianism at the last resort).

The case study selected to the analysis is the Republic of Turkey as one of the “hardest” cases to indicate the electoral malpractices and their impact on the political system and as a result – the political regime. The time framework will be the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) era  – in the years 2002-2015 (there were two parliamentary elections in 2015 – in June and November). It is a unique time of single party governments in Turkey, with consecutive elections increasingly marred by irregularities on the one hand, and rising authoritarian tendencies on the other. The last part of the research will be devoted to the reflection on the similar cases of the political regimes with the comparable scope of the electoral malpractice to find out if the research findings could be applied to other countries as well and what it can mean for the general tendencies concerning the regime changes as a result of electoral manipulations, thus enriching the theoretical scholarship on electoral malpractice.

The more specific goals refer to both the theoretical and practical dimension of the research.

In the case of the theoretical part, the specific goals are:

– To test the theoretical framework to date concerning the electoral malpractice – concepts, typologies, etc. (Andreas Schedler, Sarah Birch, Pippa Norris) as well as concerning political regimes – concepts of “defective/adjective” democracies, hybrid regimes (particularly Leah Gilbert’s and Payam Mohseni’s configurative approach) and new authoritarianism (such as Steven Levitsky’s and Lucan A. Way’s concepts of competitive authoritarianism) in order to prove that they are not sufficient to explain the current phenomena being a result of the extensive use of different kind of electoral manipulations;

– To enrich the existing taxonomy of electoral malpractice (basing on the case study of Turkey);

But first of all:

– To propose a new theoretical concepts filling the gap in the theoretical framework on the political regimes and electoral integrity/malpractice – including: 1) the model of changes of regimes depending on the scope of electoral malpractice, 2) the concept of “borderline regimes” balancing between the hybrid and authoritarian regimes and 3) the model of assessment of electoral integrity in particular types of regimes other than democracy.


As far as the empirical part is concerned, the specific research goal is:

– To  analyze the Turkish case (and later refer to similar cases in terms of the scope of electoral malpractices and type of the political regime) to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the key features of Turkish electoral process (electoral cycle)?
  2. To what extent are the practices used by the governing Justice and Development Party in accordance with three principal conditions of democratic outcomes of elections presented by Sarah Birch, i.e. inclusiveness, policy-directed voting and effective aggregation?
  3. How common are in this context the electoral malpractice in Turkey?
  4. How diverse are the practices (is the classic form of the electoral fraud-manipulation the dominant one?)?
  5. What impact do they have on the results of subsequent elections?
  6. What is the result of the electoral malpractice as far as the functioning of the political and party system is concerned?
  7. What is the impact on the political regime in the medium- to long-term perspective?
  8. Is there a risk of change of the political regime in Turkey from the hybrid to the one of the new type of authoritarianism due to the electoral malpractice?
  9. If it is the case, does it concern also similar states?


These questions will serve to verify the research hypotheses which are as follows:

H 1 – The increasing problem with the electoral integrity in states such as Turkey is caused by the deficits of the democratic culture of elites, enabling the development of the electoral “menu of manipulation”.

H 2 – Instead of dichotomy of electoral integrity vs. lack of electoral integrity (fair vs. rigged elections) there is a continuum between two poles – the scope of the electoral “menu of manipulation” determines the position within continuum.

H 3 – The intensity of the electoral malpractice affects the shape of a political and party system, and in result – a type of the political regime.

H 3.1 – A shift within the continuum to the direction of the pole of the lack of the electoral integrity as a result of the increasing malpractices leads to the enhancement of the dominant party system and slowing down of the democratization or even the de-democratization of a political system.

H 3.2- The dynamics of  the “menu of manipulation” causes the existence the “borderline regimes”, i.e. the ones balancing between hybrid and authoritarian regimes of the new type.

H 4 – Turkey and other states with “borderline regimes” are changing gradually from a hybrid regime into a new kind of the authoritarian regime – the situation influenced decisively by the consequences of the dynamic development of the electoral malpractice.