Searching for the Root Causes of Clientelism in Turkey and Lebanon

One of the main pillars of industrialization is the development of horizontal class affiliations. As pre-industrial societies lack horizontal class affiliations, political parties in pre-industrialized societies may establish their political platform on providing better services to rural areas instead of representing class interests. This factor may lead to the mushrooming spread of clientalistic activies, as the vote may led to direct bargaining with the candidates and parties about the services to be exchanged with votes (Güneş-Ayata, 1994). Villages may support parties and switch their sides based on the promises of parties to carry out services such as roads, electricity, schools, and groups may compete through political parties in getting their share of resoures (Güneş-Ayata, 1994). Therefore, democracy may function as a system of clientilistic networks attempting to capture the control of the state budget through the ascendance to power of the populist political parties (Kalaycioğlu, 2001). This might have been the case in Turkey and Lebanon, as both countries had elections before industrialization took place. In the Turkish case, the first election were contested between DP and CHP largely based on the distribution of patronage policies (Güney-Ayata, 1994). In the Lebanese case, the first elections were conducted in the early 20th century with political parties divided under sectarian lines, well before Lebanon experienced industrialization.

According to Sayarı (1975), the trend of clientelism might continue even after a country industrializes. During the times of industrialization, societies become more akin to uncertainties due to surrounding socioeconomical and sociopolitical changes. Politics based on distribution of services flourishes at that time, as traditional vertical ties weaken, but are not replaced by new ideological or class ties (Sayarı, 1975). This leads to successful transformation of clientalistic networks to industrialized areas. As a result, migrants might look for state interventionism or favoritism to guard them against socioeconomic vulnerability. In Turkish case, Justice Party, Motherland Party, Welfare Party and AKP, ruling conservative parties in 1970s and through 2000s, responded to these demands through carrying rural political structures into the cities, especially in areas where migrants were concentrated and used state power as a pork-barrel mechanism to mobilize voters (Güneş-Ayata, 1994). As a result, the patron-client relationships, which were established in rural areas, have successfully transferred themselves with migration to urban areas. In the Lebanese case, the trend of sectarianism might have continued even as Lebanon has experienced industiralization, as all of the major Lebanese political parties have been almost exclusively supported by specific religious sects and have built their platforms based on sect interests. Clientelism might have a very significant place in Lebanese politics such that political parties in Lebanon have facilitated clientalist activities by enabling voters to write-in their chosen candidates. In Lebanon before the elections, some political parties distribute sheets with the names of candidates written in stylized formats, and ask their constituencies to vote for candidates listed in the given sheets, which make it easier to track the choices of voters and therefore lead to increased efficiency of the clientalistic activites. Although the Lebanese parliament have failed to form effective governments, political parties have continued to thrive through the support of their constituencies. Thus, a potential cause of the active support of constituencies could be the patronage mechanisms.

Although “pre-industrialization” theory offers a compelling argument for the prepondance of clientelistic activities in Lebanon and Turkey, more research in clientelism of both countries needs to be carried out to understand the root causes of clientelism.

Güneş-Ayata, A. (1994). Roots and Trends of Clientelism in Turkey. London, Boulder.

Kalaycıoğlu, E. (2001). “Turkish Democracy: Patronage versus Governance.” Turkish Studies 2(1).

Sayarı, S. (1975). Some Notes on the Beginnings of Mass Political Participation in Turkey. Political Participation in Turkey: Historical Background and Present             Problems. G. B.-D. Engin D. Akarlı. İstanbul, Boğaziçi Univesity.

Posted by yasunsalih on January 7th, 2016 | Filed in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Searching for the Root Causes of Clientelism in Turkey and Lebanon

Comments are closed.