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Erdoğan’s occasion seeks benefit as Turkey’s native elections coincide with Ramadan

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Hundreds of thousands of voters in Turkey will head to the polls on March 31 to elect mayors in native elections. These elections are seen as essential each for the federal government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has been in energy since 2002, and the opposition.

The final time Turkey held native elections, in March 2019, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Growth Social gathering (AKP) misplaced key cities akin to Istanbul and Ankara. Will probably be trying to win them again. On the similar time, retaining key cities would assist revive Turkey’s opposition after it didn’t defeat Erdoğan within the 2023 nationwide and presidential elections.

How will the elections pan out on March 31? Many issues have occurred because the final native elections, not least the COVID pandemic and the devastating earthquakes that rocked the nation in 2023. However one factor is clearly totally different this time. Whereas the elections in 2019 occurred earlier than the holy month of Ramadan, the 2024 elections will occur on the peak of Ramadan.

Analysis from 2022 that I co-authored with my colleague, Diego Gambetta, means that Ramadan can drive up the depth of non secular beliefs, bolster the success of non secular organisations, and even affect the outcomes of elections.

Erdoğan’s AKP has a powerful base of help amongst individuals from the conservative custom of Turkey. This might give the occasion an additional edge. Nonetheless, the function Ramadan would possibly play within the elections is intricate.

Learn extra:
How Erdogan held onto energy in Turkey, and what this implies for the nation’s future

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaking into a microphone with his right arm outstretched.
Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, delivering a speech through the AKP’s native election marketing campaign rally in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 24 2024.
Erdem Sahin / EPA

The Muslim holy month

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic 12 months. It’s a month the place non secular actions in addition to charity and group companies enhance. Muslims abstain from ingesting, consuming, smoking and sexual intimacy from dawn to sundown for an entire month.

Ramadan fasting is a bodily and mentally demanding non secular follow. However, a really giant majority of Muslims report to be adhering to the total month of fasting.

A specific characteristic of Ramadan is that its begin date relies on the lunar calendar. The lunar 12 months is shorter than the photo voltaic 12 months. Due to this fact, the entire month of Ramadan shifts again within the photo voltaic 12 months by about 11 days annually. As a result of fasting occurs between dawn and sundown, which means that how lengthy individuals should quick in a Ramadan day varies over time.

How a lot day size adjustments over time additionally varies by latitude. Take, as an example, London. When Ramadan falls in December (which occurred through the late Nineteen Nineties), a Muslim Londoner fasts for barely lower than eight hours. Nonetheless, when Ramadan falls in June (which occurred in 2015), the fasting length is sort of 17 hours, a distinction of 9 hours.

In Antakya, the southernmost metropolis in Turkey, the identical distinction between a winter and summer time Ramadan day size is simply about 5 hours (just under ten hours in winter and simply above 14 hours in summer time).

Do religions defy the legislation of demand?

The altering begin date of Ramadan offers researchers a supply of variation within the costliness of non secular follow. This variation, in flip, helps researchers sort out the next longstanding social scientific puzzle.

As the price of an exercise will increase (on this case, the bodily and psychological calls for of fasting), individuals ought to, in idea, not be keen to spend as many sources on it, assuming all else stays equal. Economists name this the legislation of demand. Within the non secular area, nevertheless, one thing totally different appears to occur.

Analysis, together with my very own, exhibits that the extra effort somebody exerts in non secular follow, the extra non secular they get, and subsequently the extra profitable non secular organisations that require these practices turn out to be.

The mechanisms that give rise to this impact appear to contain adaptive preferences. That is the place step by step growing effort in a sure process raises an individual’s dedication to the duty. Certainly, the change in fasting length over time occurs solely step by step quite than abruptly.

If religiosity will increase and spiritual organisations turn out to be extra profitable throughout and after Ramadans with lengthy fasting days, we are able to, in precept, detect the results of Ramadan on the electoral cycle. The longer individuals are fasting throughout Ramadan, the extra votes Islamic political events ought to get.

We examined this prediction in our analysis utilizing information from Turkey, specializing in the parliamentary elections from 1973 to 2018. We discovered {that a} half-hour rise within the length of Ramadan fasting will increase the vote share of Islamist political events by 11%. The earlier the election is after Ramadan, the stronger the impact of fasting length on Islamic votes.

Evidently step by step exerting greater non secular effort additional intensifies non secular beliefs and participation, which in flip drives up votes for political events with non secular connotations.

A stand full of people holding red placards and a large picture depicting Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Supporters of Erdoğan’s AKP collaborating in a rally in Istanbul in 2022.
Erdem Sahin / EPA

What’s going to occur on March 31?

All else equal, which admittedly isn’t the case, the truth that Turkey’s native elections are happening throughout Ramadan ought to assist Islamist political events achieve floor, together with Erdoğan’s AKP.

Nonetheless, Ramadan day size within the northern hemisphere peaked in 2019 and has been lowering since. This might imply that Islamic events will face a steeper uphill battle to maintain their votes in the long term. That is significantly true at northern latitudes (each inside Turkey and past) the place the decline in Ramadan day size is stronger.

It’s troublesome to inform which of those two opposing results of Ramadan will dominate on March 31. However polls present that the race between AKP and the opposition could be very shut in lots of locations.

In such shut elections small elements may tip the steadiness. Time will quickly inform who Ramadan will likely be most beneficiant in direction of.


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