Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

Second Department


First Advisor

Mark Dallas

Second Advisor

Lewis Davis




akp, party, conservative, islamist, electorate


Since 2002, Turkey's secular republic has been ruled by the Islamist politicians of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Confusing many observers, the AKP is simultaneously one of the most progressive parties to ever rule Turkey on issues like European Union membership and relations with the West, while also one of the most conservative parties to ever rule on issues related to the role of religion in public life, such as Islamic education in public schools. The goal of this project is to determine, through an empirical analysis of how the AKP came to power, whether the success of the AKP should be viewed as Islamist actors moving toward the center to accommodate a modernizing electorate, or as an electorate becoming more conservative and thereby choosing to vote for a conservative, Islamist party. Using provincial-level data, this project examines the 2002 parliamentary election in light of competing narratives to explain the AKP's accession. This study finds that, contrary to many understandings, the AKP's efforts to make the party appear more modern and forward-thinking had very little impact on the election. This study also finds that the effects of the 1999 earthquakes in northwestern Turkey, though positive and significant for the AKP, were significantly tapered by existing ideology. The AKP should not be viewed as an Islamist party becoming moderate, but as a party succeeding with a more conservative electorate.