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All FSI Publications Journal Articles Journal of Democracy Volume 32 Number 4

How Authoritarians Win When They Lose

October 19, 2021

What happens when authoritarian populist parties lose elections despite a tilted playing field? Postelection capture might be their new tool: Confronted with losses in the 2016 and 2019 local elections, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) set about undoing the results by dismissing over 150 democratically elected mayors—mostly in predominantly Kurdish cities—and replaced them with state-appointed trustees or kayyums. These political captures expand the AKP’s patronage networks through what we call forced clientelism and further polarization, thereby undermining the formation of a stronger prodemocratic coalition.