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IPS0010.1177/0192512115620196International Political Science ReviewTokdemir and Moral


International Political Science Review

Justices en Garde: ideological The Author(s) 2016
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determinants of the dissolution
DOI: 10.1177/0192512115620196
of anti-establishment parties

Mert Moral
Binghamton University (SUNY), USA

Efe Tokdemir
Binghamton University (SUNY), USA

Examining justice-level determinants of party dissolution decisions can reveal how high Courts may influence
the public choice by constraining the representation of political ideologies. We argue that Constitutional
Court justices strategically engage in politics through party dissolution cases, and justices en garde act
to guard the regime against anti-establishment ideologies. As a graveyard of political parties, Turkey is an
appropriate case to study this claim. By introducing a unique dataset, we demonstrate that communist,
religious and ethnic parties in Turkey with considerable public support are more likely to be dissolved by
justices having an activist and pro-status quo ideological stance.

Party dissolution, anti-establishment parties, judicialization, representation, Turkish politics

In March 2008, the Constitutional Court of Turkey (hereinafter CCT) announced its intention to
review the case for dissolving the Justice and Development Party (AKP) the incumbent conserva-
tive party. Only four months after the AKPs first re-election with 47% of the popular votes, the
Court decided that the party was a focal point of non-secular activities1 that undermined the prin-
ciple of secularism. The results of the voting were 6 votes for and 5 votes against the dissolution.
However, the AKP managed to escape dissolution due to the lack of a qualified majority. The Court
nevertheless cut the state funding to the AKP in half.

Corresponding author:
Mert Moral, Department of Political Science, Binghamton University. PO Box 6000. Binghamton NY 13902-6000, USA.

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2 International Political Science Review

The AKP case is only one of many in which a political party with high levels of electoral support
has been accused of violating the secularism principle in recent history. Ten years earlier, the CCT
dissolved the Welfare Party, the AKPs predecessor, and banned its leaders, including the former
prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, from politics. The Court has dissolved a total of 27 political
parties to date. This figure is very high in comparison to the 18 party dissolutions in a total of 11
European states (Bourne, 2012), and for this reason alone merits the attention of comparative judi-
cial scholars. Why such a high number of party dissolutions in Turkey?
Not all the parties dissolved by the CCT represent the same ideology, but in almost all cases the
parties were accused of challenging the territorial integrity or the secular nature of the regime.
Numerous studies on the judicialization of Turkish politics, however, claim that the Courts deci-
sions are often of a political character (Belge, 2006; Celep, 2012; Kogacioglu, 2003, 2004;
zbudun, 2010; Shambayati and Kirdis, 2009; Tezcur, 2009). Can we argue, then, that the Court
strategically engages in politics through party dissolution cases to maintain the founding principles
of the Turkish political regime?
We argue that when the anti-establishment political parties constitute a prominent threat to the
regime, the judiciary takes a pro-status quo stance in favor of the state ideology. We test the viabil-
ity of this claim focusing on Turkey, a country with civil law tradition. In the literature, party dis-
solution decisions are considered to be a reaction of the regime against anti-establishment
ideologies (Algan, 2011: 809). Further, some scholars suggest that the Turkish political regime has
come close to a government of judges due to the Courts expansionist approach (Hazama, 2012;
zbudun, 2007; Shambayati and Kirdis, 2009; Tezcur, 2009). Examining the role of justice ideol-
ogy in decision-making, hence, is crucial, as explanations of politics are incomplete, unless they
incorporate courts (Epstein etal., 2001: 120), especially if the Courts are unconstrained but con-
straining actors. With this in mind, our primary purpose in this article is to investigate whether, and
if so, to what extent justices and defendant parties ideological positions influence the dissolution
decisions of the CCT. This differs from much of the previous literature on comparative courts,
which often pertains to judicial review cases (Corkin, 2010; Couso etal., 2010; Dressel, 2012;
Shapiro and Stone, 1994; Shapiro and Stone Sweet, 2002).
The justices of the CCT are argued to embrace Kemalism, which is the founding ideology of the
regime and the dominant perspective of political elites, based on Turkish nationalism and secular-
ism principles (Belge, 2006; Celep, 2012; Guney and Baskan, 2008; Kogacioglu, 2003; Shambayati
and Kirdis, 2009). In fact, prior studies neither assess the ideological stances of individual justices,
nor empirically examine the variation in their attitudes, and their effects on justices decisions.
However, party dissolution decisions are by no means consensus driven. Rather, individual dis-
senting opinions signal that the Courts decisions do not merely arise from legal norms but also
from the ideological dispositions of justices.
We suggest that examining the justice and party-level determinants of party dissolution deci-
sions can provide scholars with an understanding of how, and to what extent, high Courts can
indirectly overrule public choice by limiting the representation of diverse political ideologies. This
article is the first empirical assessment of how the ideological dispositions of the justices of the
CCT influence their decisions in dissolution cases against political parties representing anti-estab-
lishment ideologies. In this regard, we both assess the validity of the attitudinal model (Segal and
Spaeth, 2002) and demonstrate that the judiciary, often considered the least dangerous branch,
plays a decisive role in shaping the political sphere. Given that some other European high courts
have also attempted to curb anti-establishment ideologies, our findings have broader implications
for the comparative judicial politics literature.
We begin by examining the party dissolution phenomenon, and discuss why this is a matter of
importance. Next, we briefly summarize the attitudinal model of judicial decision-making used

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Tokdemir and Moral 3

herein to explain the CCTs dissolution decisions. We conclude by summarizing our findings and
offering a roadmap for future research.

The dissolution of anti-establishment political parties

The ruling elite perceive anti-establishment political parties that represent traditional cleavage
groups as a threat to the regime. European history reveals such examples in Italy and Germany
before the Second World War (Celep, 2012). In fact, some European democracies continue to face
challenges of this nature. More recent examples include the Basque nationalist Batasuna party in
2003, and the dissolution of the Belgian Vlaams Belang in 2004. Some other European countries,
such as Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Spain and Greece, have also prohibited
anti-establishment parties (Bale, 2007; Bourne, 2012; Molenaar, 2010). Depending on the saliency
of the social cleavages politicized by anti-establishment parties, parties facing dissolution do not
necessarily have small electoral constituencies. In fact, some anti-establishment parties subjected
to dissolution, including the Peoples Democracy, Welfare, and Virtue parties in Turkey and the
Batasuna in Spain, had secured important electoral victories (Bourne, 2012).
The burgeoning literature on party dissolutions underlines the dilemma that democracies with
salient social cleavages must address in regard to party dissolution. On the one hand, most demo-
cratic regimes do not make it a practice because democratic ideals recognize the importance of
representing diverse ideologies and preserving civil liberties. On the other hand, excluding anti-
establishment parties from the political space may help democracies protect their regimes from
competitive pressures (Bourne, 2012; Celep, 2012).
Uncertainty, political polarization, and the threat of past legacies have important consequences
for bolstering regimes reactionary stances against anti-establishment parties. To the extent that
political extremism might threaten their stability, some democracies might prohibit the representa-
tion of anti-establishment ideologies. The CCT, too, is equipped with imperative powers including
the power to dissolve political parties. In fact, the Court has used this power more frequently than
any other democracy has, and has relied on this mechanism more than other mechanisms, e.g.
denying state funding or preventing a party from running in an election.

The role of justice ideology in party dissolution cases

The legal model of judicial decision-making contends that the plain meaning of statutes, the intent
of lawmakers, and precedents determine justices decisions (Segal and Spaeth, 2002: 48). In this
view, justices are mere functionaries who simply render verdicts in accordance with the law. One
problem with this model, however, is that legal texts are imprecise, and open to interpretation.
Moreover, legal norms may conflict with one another. Justices may also consider the intent of
constitution makers. However, constitutions only offer a general framework. Therefore, referring
to intent is problematic, as different justices may reasonably draw different conclusions (Howard
and Segal, 2002). Further, justices can refer to precedents for making decisions (Kassow etal.,
2012; Lax and Rader, 2010 ; Lindquist and Klein, 2006 ). On this point, however, one drawback is
the existence of possibly conflicting precedents relating to the same issue. As each case is unique
in some respects, the decision as to which precedent to follow still involves some discretion (Segal
and Spaeth, 1993).
Given the lack of precision in legal texts, the difficulty of identifying intent, and the existence
of multiple precedents pertinent to a single issue, justices can be expected to base their decisions
on their own interpretations of legal norms and cases, which by nature are subjective. Hence, we
concur with Gibson (1983: 9) when he writes that justices decisions are a function of what they

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4 International Political Science Review

prefer to do, tempered by what they think they ought to do, but constrained by what they perceive
feasible to do. This proposition does not imply that the legal model cannot explain the decisions
of the Court, but rather that other factors are also influential in judicial decision-making.
We assume that justices attitudes (e.g. ideologies and goals) are crucial in explaining their deci-
sions (Blake, 2012; Segal and Cover, 1989; Segal and Spaeth, 1993, 2002; Tate, 1981; Yates etal.,
2013a). In many countries, there is no formal mechanism for reviewing the decisions of high
courts, which implies that justices decisions are not monitored in any formal way, and that the
justices are unconstrained in their decision-making (Epstein etal., 2001; Stone, 1992). Moreover,
as high court justices are appointed for long periods or even for lifetime terms, they often do not
have any concerns relating to electoral accountability or re-election (Segal and Spaeth, 2002).
The attitudinal model has been frequently tested in the American context and more recently in
other established democracies with a common law tradition (Ostberg and Wetstein, 2007). It is
nevertheless important to scrutinize the ideological determinants of justices decisions in a range
of different legal and political contexts. Turkey provides an appropriate example with an activist
court as an unconstrained constraining actor, where the Courts decisions are not open to challenge
and the political domain is highly judicialized. In the next section, we offer a brief examination of
the CCT from historical, legal, and political perspectives in order to explain why we select the CCT
in considering the role of courts as political regulators in party dissolution cases.

The Constitutional Court of Turkey

The Constitutional Court of Turkey in historical context
Established in 1961, the CCT has a legal responsibility for preserving the founding principles of
the regime, and the civil liberties afforded by the constitution. This responsibility includes deter-
mining whether the views and actions of political parties pose a threat to the constitution. The
Court has the right to review the constitutionality of government actions and even to declare them
void. With the enactment of Turkeys 1982 Constitution, the scope of the Courts judicial review
power was extended. In addition to the judicial review, financial control, formal notice, stay of
execution, and party dissolution are all within the Courts discretion under the 1982 Constitution.
Until 2010, there were eleven justices serving on the Court all of whom had served until their
retirement, and who were appointed by Presidents from a diverse set of candidates nominated by
civil and military high courts and institutions. Since then, the number of justices serving has been
set at seventeen, and all serve for twelve years with no re-election. This appointment procedure has
long provided Presidents with direct influence on the judiciary and indirect influence on the politi-
cal domain through the decisions of the Court.
Based on the Roman law tradition and the FrenchSwiss civil code, the Turkish law system
dictates that justices must abide by the positive legal commands of the law and the constitution-
makers (Shapiro and Stone, 1994). Yet, this lack of discretion does not impede their willingness to
play an active political role. Along with the jurisdiction of the Court extending to formal notice,
financial auditing, and judicial review, the right to dissolve political parties paves the way for the
justices of the Court to intervene in the political domain.

The legal bases of the dissolution of Turkish political parties

Turkey has been labeled a graveyard of political parties (Celep, 2012: 3). Particularly through its
decisions in party dissolution cases, the CCT indirectly but actively and strategically engages
in politics to maintain the very foundations of the regime. Its constitutional responsibility to protect

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Tokdemir and Moral 5

the integrity of the regime does not necessarily render the CCT politically legitimate, especially for
the supporters of the dissolved political parties. Likewise, although the Court has the authority to
dissolve political parties under the rule of law, this does not imply that such decisions are free from
political considerations.
Along with the preamble of the 1982 Constitution, Article 68 of the Constitution and the law on
political parties are the legal norms cited most often in dissolution cases (Algan, 2011; Hakyemez
and Akgun, 2002; Karvonen, 2007). Article 68 states that the statutes, programs, and activities of
political parties cannot be in conflict with the independence of the state, its indivisible integrity,
human rights, the rule of law, the sovereignty of the nation, democracy, and the principle of secu-
larism. Of these provisions, perhaps the most restrictive for the representation of cleavage groups
are those regarding the indivisible integrity and secularism of the Turkish Republic. These vague
(zbudun, 2007: 259) restrictions are intended to consolidate the founding principles of the Turkish
Republic, especially with respect to the separatist claims of the Kurdish minority, and to the reli-
gious camp (Hakyemez and Akgun, 2002; Kogacioglu, 2003).
Thus, the Constitution itself is biased in favor of party dissolutions; it falls to the justices of the
CCT to enforce the founding principles of the Turkish regime. The provisions in Article 68 were
amended in 1995 and 2001 in instances in which political actors have tried to curb the Courts
activism. In 1995, in line with the European jurisdiction, a constitutional change hindered efforts
to dissolve political parties by requiring sufficient proof that the party subject to dissolution had
become the focal point of anti-regime activities (Algan, 2011; Hakyemez and Akgun, 2002).
Additional clauses limiting the power of the justices came into effect with the constitutional
changes in 2001. Since then, the Court can only dissolve a political party if it violates constitutional
provisions in its governing documents, by its activities, or by receiving financial aid from foreign
states, persons, or corporations. In addition to the dissolution, the amendment recognized a new
mechanism for checking political parties, the power to ask for a cut in the state funding for a party.
Additionally, the required majority for dissolution decisions was increased from a simple to a
qualified majority of at least three-fifths of the members of the Court.
Three political parties, the FP (Virtue Party), the HADEP (Peoples Democracy Party), and the
DTP (Democratic Society Party), have been dissolved since 2001 despite such comprehensive
changes in the Constitution that have made dissolving political parties more difficult. Moreover,
the lack of unanimity in the controversial FP and AKP cases in this period shows that there is still
space for the justices to arrive at different interpretations of legal norms, and to render correspond-
ingly different verdicts.
In fact, the replacement of retired justices and the appointment of new members by the former
prime minister of the conservative AKP, President Gl, have radically changed the composition of
the Court since his election in 2007. According to Celep (2012), the pro-status quo stance of the
Court favoring the unitary state and secularism principles before Gls election gave way to an
anti-status quo stance from 2007 onwards. In these respects, as zbudun (2007) and Algan (2011)
also argue, perhaps the main problem is not related to law or to constitutional amendments limiting
the power of the Court, but to the justices ideologies and activism. Although this does not decrease
the significance of the Constitutions bias against anti-establishment ideologies, a lack of accord
among the justices and the existence of dissenting opinions encourage us to focus on justice-level
determinants of party dissolutions.

The Constitutional Court of Turkey as a political regulator

Given the judicialization of politics over time, the literature is divided in terms of the democratic
legitimacy of non-elected constitutional bodies. Some authors contend that constitutional

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6 International Political Science Review

politics pose a danger to democracy, while others see it as acting as a positive check and balance
(Caldeira, 1987; Hazama, 2012; Hirschl, 2004). Indeed, to the extent that judicial activism
reaches certain levels, the legitimacy of such courts is a serious concern. Activist high courts, in
this regard, have been accused of becoming a government of judges (Hirschl, 2004; Shapiro
and Stone, 1994: 400). Considering its power to dissolve political parties by referring to the
vague principles set forth in the Constitution, the CCT has dissolved 19 political parties since
1982. We argue that the decisions of the Court in the party dissolution cases reflect the ideologi-
cal positions of its justices.
As a last resort against regime changes, the Court is intended to be a non-political and legiti-
mate institution that has the power to constrain the representation of anti-establishment ideolo-
gies. We suggest that, although public choice cannot be restricted in democratic regimes, one
way to suppress anti-establishment demands can be through manipulating the supply of anti-
establishment ideologies. First, party dissolution as a way to do this is legitimate on legal
grounds for a majority of the public compared to putting barriers in front of all new entrant
parties. In addition, although electoral institutions are easier to change by the legislature, con-
stitutional changes preventing activism on the part of the Court require a qualified majority in
the Parliament, and often a constitutional referendum, which is difficult to achieve in frag-
mented political systems such as that of Turkey. Thus, limiting the supply of anti-establishment
ideologies through the Courts intervention is more legitimate in the eyes of the public, who
would otherwise see such legislative actions as illegitimate. Second, although new political
parties with extreme ideologies may succeed in overcoming financial and organizational restric-
tions, regulating the supply of political parties through the Court offers an unchallengeable
means to restrict the supply of anti-establishment ideologies.2 Thus, we hypothesize that the
CCT functions as both a preventive and a pre-emptive instrument in shaping the political

H1: Pro-status quo justices are more likely to vote for the dissolution of political parties.

So far, we suggest that justices ideological stances play an important role in the Courts party
dissolution decisions. In fact, not all the parties facing the dissolution threat represent anti-estab-
lishment ideologies. Compared with mainstream parties, ethnic, sectarian, and religious parties
that represent traditional cleavage groups in Turkey are more likely to be targeted by political
elites, as they challenge the very foundations of the regime. We expect justices to react proactively
and dissolve these parties based on the alleged threat of the existence of such political parties

H2: Pro-status quo justices are more likely to vote for the dissolution of anti-establishment
parties that represent traditional cleavage groups in Turkey.

Despite the lack of electoral accountability, the public choice can serve as a constraint on the
justices as long as they want their decisions to be considered legitimate (Caldeira, 1987; Epstein
etal., 2001; Segal and Spaeth, 2002). However, empowering the judiciary might encourage activist
justices who share the views of the political elite to take action against challengers with strong
electoral support (Dressel, 2012; Hirschl, 2004). To the extent that those anti-establishment parties
garner electoral support, and therefore threaten the status quo, the Court can intervene in the politi-
cal sphere as a regulator. In such circumstances, we expect the justices who share the ideological
stance of the founding and ruling elites to act in concert to constrain public choice. We, therefore,
suggest that political parties with considerable electoral support representing traditional cleavage

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Tokdemir and Moral 7

groups are more likely to be dissolved by justices whose political views are in accord with those of
the ruling elite.

H3: High electoral support for anti-establishment parties makes pro-status quo justices more
likely to vote to dissolve such parties.

Research design and data

Previous empirical studies on the CCT scrutinized the political divide between old and new elites
by examining the decisions of the Court in judicial review cases (Belge, 2006; Hazama, 2012).
Unlike those studies, which examine case-level variation in the exercise of judicial review cases,
the present article is the first to examine justice-level variation. In addition, it is the first in the
comparative judicial politics literature to examine party dissolution cases as another example of the
judiciary influencing the political domain. Although we follow previous studies by including inde-
pendent variables coded from judicial review cases as measures of the ideological preferences of
justices, we employ these variables to examine party dissolution cases, which we think are likely
to prove a clear indicator of the judicialization of politics.
We compiled a comprehensive dataset consisting of 2,870 cases in different domains in addition
to the educational and professional backgrounds of 85 justices3 who served during the period from
the enactment of the Constitution of 1982 to the end of 2011.4,5 To measure the justices ideological
positions, which might affect their decisions in dissolution cases, we coded the justices decisions
and dissents in 2,074 judicial review cases in which the CCT reviewed the constitutionality of
laws. In the 329 instances for which we were able to identify the ideological stances of appellants,
we also coded whether the political party taking the case to the Court was right-wing or left-wing
based on the Comparative Manifesto Project (CMP) dataset, which provides a reliable indicator of
the ideological positions of legislative parties on the traditional leftright scale (Volkens etal.,
2013).6 We coded our dependent variable, vote for dissolution or prohibition, from party dissolu-
tion cases that are also retrieved from the official website of the CCT.7

Dependent variable and model specification

Our dependent variable is the dissolution vote for a political party or the vote to ban an individual
actor from politics in a given case. Because justices of the CCT cannot abstain, the variable is
binary. All 41 dissolution cases between 1983 and 2011 are listed in Section A in the online
Supplementary Appendix file.8 In addition to the decisions regarding the dissolution of political
parties, we also include ten votes in these cases on whether to prohibit party leaders from politics.
Moreover, we inversely coded 19 cases such that our dependent variable accounts for whether a
justice votes for the dissolution of political parties or the prohibition of individual party leaders.9
Following the previous literature on the party dissolution phenomenon in Turkey (Celep, 2012),
we also identified procedural cases in which fringe parties without any electoral support were the
defendants. We estimate separate logistic regression models on the subsample composed of non-
procedural cases as a robustness check. The model specification we employ in empirical analyses
in the next section is as follows:

0 + 1 Justice Ideology + 2Status + 3Experience +

Pr ( Vote for Dissolution ) = G 4 Education + 5 Parliamentary Party + 6 Parliament s
Ideology + p, +

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8 International Political Science Review

where Justice Ideology indicates the respective primary independent variable employed in the
model (two-dimensional w-nominate ideal point estimates or unidimensional mean leftright
score), and p indicates the dichotomous variables accounting for the ideological dispositions of
defendant political parties in dissolution cases.

Independent variables
To test our primary hypothesis that the justices ideologies affect their decisions in dissolution
cases, we employ two independent variables that account for justice ideology. As our first measure,
we introduce two-dimensional w-nominate ideal point estimates in Model 1. Given the minimum
vote requirement in the algorithm (Poole etal., 2011) and unanimous decisions in our dataset, we
used 726 judicial review decisions to estimate the ideological dispositions of 54 of 58 justices who
voted in a dissolution case. We correctly predict 82.26% of yes and 90.9% of no votes and
classify 82.26% and 85.71% of the justices ideal points. Therefore, w-nominate estimates consti-
tute a reliable account of the underlying ideological dimensions of the political space and the ideo-
logical dispositions of the CCT justices.10
The w-nominate estimates suggest that the Turkish political space, unlike the issue space of the
US Supreme Court (Epstein etal., 2007; Martin etal., 2005), is likely to be two-dimensional. We
refer to the first and main ideological dimension as the liberalconservative dimension (Poole and
Rosenthal, 1985, 2007). The second dimension, referred to as the activist (anti-status quo)restrai-
nist (pro-status quo) dimension, accounts for whether justices, regardless of their political views,
adopt an interventionist stance. We expect both conservative and activist (pro-status quo) justices
who score higher than liberal and restrainist justices on either or both of the first and second dimen-
sions to be more likely to vote for the dissolution of political parties.
We introduce the unidimensional leftright score in Model 2 as an alternative measure to the
two-dimensional ideal-point estimates. Our second independent variable is the mean score of
whether a justice casts a leftist or a rightist vote in 329 judicial review cases in which the appellant
is a parliamentary party.11 We expect the effect of the mean leftright score on the probability of
voting for dissolution to be positive.12
To test our second hypothesis, we include a set of dichotomous variables to differentiate between
the party families. In addition to ethnic parties pursuing the interests of the Kurdish minority and
religious parties13 we include three variables to control for socialist/communist parties, centrist
parties, and nationalist parties. The base category in our models is fringe parties without an identi-
fiable ideological stance. In contrast to the previous literature, we do not expect to find significant
differences in regard to the justices attitudes toward diverse cleavage groups represented by social-
ist, ethnic, and religious parties. Yet, we expect to find a negative effect for parties representing the
dominant rightist stance in Turkey compared to those groups.
In terms of the legitimacy of the justices in the eyes of the public, some scholars argue that
public opinion has little, if any, effect on judicial behavior because the justices do not have
re-election goals or electoral accountability (McGuire and Stimson, 2004; Segal and Spaeth,
2002). On the other hand, some scholars offer empirical evidence suggesting that the deci-
sions of the Supreme Court justices in the US are affected by public opinion (Caldeira, 1987;
Langer, 2003; McGuire and Stimson, 2004; Yates etal., 2013b). To test our third hypothesis,
we include a measure that controls for the ideological composition of Parliament when the
Court hears the case. In instances where the dominant centerright ideology of the Turkish
public is translated into the Parliament, we expect it to have a positive effect on the probabil-
ity of voting for dissolution to the extent that the justices take the Parliaments ideological
stance into consideration.

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Tokdemir and Moral 9

We introduce another measure to account for the effect of the public choice on the justices deci-
sions based on the electoral support of defendant parties. If they have legitimacy concerns, justices
may vote against the dissolution of parliamentary political parties that have a high level of electoral
support. Conversely, we expect this variable to have a positive effect because high electoral sup-
port for extreme parties might provoke a reactionary stance in justices who wish to preserve the
regime in line with the hegemonic preservation thesis (Hirschl, 2004).
The justices experience, status, and educational level are also included in empirical analyses as
control variables. As chief justices might influence others decisions, we control for whether the
President or Vice President of the Court differ in regard to how likely they are to vote in favor of
dissolution. We also control for the level of education of justices given the normative debates in the
literature about the juristocracy in Turkey. The experience variable is a simple counter for the dif-
ference between the years a justice was appointed and the year the decision was made.

Empirical findings and discussion

In testing our hypotheses, we employ two logistic regression models that differ in terms of the
measurement of justice ideology. In discussing our findings, we report the predicted probability of
voting for dissolution and the change in probability for a one-unit increase in the independent vari-
able. The model specification is non-linear in nature; therefore, we also plot the predicted probabil-
ity of voting for the dissolution of ethnic (Kurdish nationalist) parties in comparison to our base
category, fringe parties. This is achieved by allowing the variables that account for justice ideology
to vary and by setting other variables to their sample means or modes.

H1: the effect of justice ideology on dissolution decisions

Our first model relies on two-dimensional w-nominate ideal-point estimates on the liberalconservative
and activist (anti-status quo)restrainist (pro-status quo) dimensions. Both measures are statistically
significant and in the expected directions in Model 1. When each of the other variables is set to the
sample mean or mode, the estimated probability that a hypothetical justice scoring 0 on both dimensions
will vote for dissolution is 75%. Ceteris paribus, the probability for a highly liberal justice, who scores
-1 on the first and 0 on the second dimension, is 84%. On the other hand, a pro-status quo justice scoring
1 on the activist (anti-status quo)restrainist (pro-status quo) dimension and 0 on the liberalconserva-
tive dimension has an 87% probability of voting for dissolution. When set to their minimum and maxi-
mum values, the most conservative and pro-status quo justice has a probability of 92%, which is more
than twice that of a liberal and activist justice (43%). Because both measures are continuous and range
between -1 and 1, we plot our estimates for nine hypothetical cases representing the minimum, mean
and maximum values of respective ideological dimensions in Figure 1. As the confidence intervals
around the predicted probabilities show, our predictions for the modal category in dissolution cases and
ethnic parties are statistically distinguishable from the base category (i.e. fringe parties). Moreover, a
conservative and pro-status quo justice has an approximately 20% higher probability of voting for the
dissolution of an anti-establishment party than for a fringe party of no electoral significance.
Our primary independent variable in Model 2 is the mean leftright score of justices in judicial
review cases with appellants as parliamentary parties. A leftright score of -1 corresponds to the far
left and a score of 1 corresponds to the far right position. Like Model 1, Model 2 provides empirical
support for our first hypothesis, according to which justices who have a rightist stance are more
likely to vote for the dissolution of political parties. A centrist justice has an estimated probability of
71% of voting for the dissolution; it is 86% for a rightist and 49% for a leftist justice. On average,
the estimated difference is 25.7% for one-standard-deviation increase in the mean leftright score.

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10 International Political Science Review

Figure 1. Predicted probabilities of voting for dissolution (Model 1).

H2: the effect of party ideology on dissolution decisions

To test our second hypothesis, we introduce a set of dichotomous variables accounting for different
party families that have faced dissolution trials. Although extreme leftist ideology represents a sali-
ent divide in Turkish politics especially in the 1970s, the literature largely disregards dissolution
cases against parties from the socialist and communist party family. Our results indicate that,
though substantively less salient in comparison to the ethnic camps in Turkish politics, this cleav-
age exerts more influence on the justices decisions in comparison to the effect of the division
between secular and religious camps.
In Model 1, for cases in which an ethnic party is facing trial, the probability of voting for dis-
solution increases from 36% in the base category (fringe parties) to 76%, whereas the estimated
probability for socialist/communist parties is about 71%. Albeit substantively less significant than
the probability of voting for the dissolution of ethnic and communist parties, the probability of
voting for the dissolution of a religious party is 56.5% when each of the other variables is set to its
sample mean or mode. Note that the coefficient of our independent variable controlling for nation-
alist parties is both negative and significant. Given the dominant Kemalist stance of the political
elite in Turkey, this finding is not surprising. Indeed, it supports our expectation that conservative
and restrainist justices are hesitant to dissolve political parties that share similar ideologies, but are
willing to vote for the dissolution of others representing anti-establishment ideologies.
We plot the predicted probabilities of voting for the dissolution of an ethnic, and a fringe party
in Figure 2. As shown in Figure 2, the predicted probabilities are statistically distinguishable for all
justices in the range of the mean leftright score in our sample. Providing empirical evidence in

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Tokdemir and Moral 11

Figure 2. Predicted probabilities of voting for dissolution (Model 2).

support of both the first and second hypotheses, Figure 2 also shows that the predicted probabilities
for rightist justices are not only higher than for leftist justices, but are also contingent on the politi-
cal ideology of the defendant party.14

H3: the effects of public opinion and electoral support on party dissolution
To test our third hypothesis, we introduced two measures of public choice approximating public
opinion and electoral support for political parties at a given time. As noted above, one should have
expected to find a decrease in the probability of voting for dissolution if the Court takes a stance in
favor of diverse choices available to the public. Yet, the effect is statistically insignificant and in
the negative direction in both models, even though the mean score for the ideological stance of the
Parliament is 5.67, which indicates a centerright stance.
In fact, the variable that accounts for the electoral support of parties facing a dissolution trial
is statistically and substantively significant in both models in Table 1. Unlike the sign of the
coefficient for the Parliaments ideology, the sign of the coefficient of the second variable,
referred to as Parliamentary Party, is positive. This finding contradicts the claims in the litera-
ture regarding the moderating effect of public opinion on justices decisions. Ceteris paribus,
justices are almost twice as likely to vote for dissolution if a party is represented in Parliament,
and thus constitutes a more prominent threat to the status quo than do parties that are not rep-
resented in Parliament.

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12 International Political Science Review

Table 1. Logistic regressions on vote for dissolution.

Model 1 Model 2
1st dimension (W-nominate) 0.573***
2nd dimension (W-nominate) 0.787***
Mean leftright score 0.923**
Socialist/Communist Party 1.487*** 1.319***
(0.317) (0.311)
Kurdish/Alawite Party 1.724*** 1.483***
(0.365) (0.354)
Center Party 0.076 0.321
(0.328) (0.358)
Nationalist Party 1.238** 0.949*
(0.497) (0.571)
Religious Party 0.852** 0.748**
(0.422) (0.381)
Parliamentary Party 1.040*** 0.844***
(0.340) (0.321)
Parliaments ideology 0.005 0.004
(0.014) (0.015)
Status of the Justice 0.250* 0.290*
(0.136) (0.169)
Years of experience 0.102*** 0.097***
(0.030) (0.035)
Education level 0.205 0.379***
(0.149) (0.135)
Constant 0.377 0.280
(0.345) (0.436)
N 567 567
Pseudo R 0.149 0.111
Log likelihood 330.320 344.903

Robust standard errors clustered by justices in parentheses.

Two-tailed tests: * p<0.1; ** p<0.05; *** p<0.01.

Our control variables also are substantively and statistically significant. On average, a year
increase in our experience variable decreases the probability by 9.3% and 9.7% in Models 1 and 2
respectively. A justice with a doctorate in law is about 37% to 63% less likely to vote for dissolu-
tion in comparison to a justice with a bachelors degree. As expected, whereas the President of the
Court is most likely to vote for dissolution, junior justices are about 19.4% to 34.3% less likely
compared to Vice Presidents in the empirical analyses reported in Table 1.

Checks and balances are sine qua non for democracies. There are numerous examples in which
political elites have advanced their interests by using political institutions. By examining party

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Tokdemir and Moral 13

dissolution cases in Turkey, a country with a long but frequently interrupted history of democracy,
we examine whether the justices of the CCT have acted in ways that overuse their powers and
constrain the public choice. We show that the judiciary uses its power to dissolve political parties
representing traditional cleavage groups at the expense of representative democracy.
We found that the ideologies of the justices of the CCT and the defendant political parties play
an important role in party dissolution cases. Activist and pro-status quo justices act to guard the
regime against anti-establishment ideologies. Moreover, anti-establishment parties are more likely
to be dissolved by the Court than pro-status quo parties are. We relax the implicit assumption of
uniformity across the justices in the previous literature on party dissolution cases in Turkey, and
take into account the ideological stances of individual justices and defendant political parties. By
modeling the effects of justices ideologies conditional on party ideologies, we were able to deter-
mine whether justices ideologies influence their decisions in dissolution cases against political
parties representing salient cleavage groups in Turkey. Moreover, we demonstrated that anti-estab-
lishment political parties with considerable electoral support and that are represented in the parlia-
ment are more likely to be dissolved by justices who have conservative and pro-status quo stances.
Along with these, we introduced diverse ideology measures accounting for the mean leftright
scores of appellant parliamentary parties in judicial review cases, and two-dimensional w-nomi-
nate ideal-point estimates computed from judicial review cases. We showed that the justices ide-
ologies are significant determinants of the Courts decisions in dissolution cases.
We present our findings as worthy of further discussion. First, we call on scholars to test the
external validity of our findings in other civil law countries. Although this article focuses on party
dissolution cases in Turkey, our empirical results are mostly in line with the theoretical claims in
previous comparative research on the judicialization of politics. Moreover, given the comprehen-
sive constitutional changes in last years concerning the composition, jurisdiction, and structure of
the CCT, further research could also test whether justices ideologies still play an important role in
the justices decisions, and assess whether they are an artifact of Turkeys institutional structure
and frequently interrupted democracy, or only applicable to a particular era in Turkish politics.
We also call attention to party dissolution cases as an important means of judicial influence on
politics. Albeit a rare phenomenon, party dissolution is not limited to Turkey. In some other European
democracies that also follow the civil law tradition, High Courts limit the representation of salient
cleavage groups through party dissolutions and other means, such as denying state funding to politi-
cal parties. If our findings do not hold for similar regimes facing anti-establishment pressures, and
other case types through which High Courts can intervene in the political domain, it could be that
the exercise of judicial influence on politics is limited to regimes with similar levels of activism or
those in which the High Court has a similarly high level of legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
Despite being robust to the employment of different measures of justice ideology, limiting the
sample to non-procedural cases, and addressing the heteroskedasticity in the data by clustering the
standard errors by cases, our empirical analyses are insensitive to temporal changes in justice ide-
ology. Despite our best efforts to control for the changing composition of the Parliament and the
Court over time, it would still be beneficial to consider the structural changes over time. In this
regard, we hope that the comprehensive dataset we present will provide researchers with a founda-
tion to account for changing dynamics of the strategic interaction between the judiciary, the legis-
lature, and the executive in the future.

An earlier version of this article was awarded the Richard I Hofferbert Best Graduate Student Paper Award.
The authors thank the Award Committee, Wendy L Martinek, Jeffrey L Yates, Michael D McDonald, three

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14 International Political Science Review

anonymous reviewers, as well as the editor for helpful comments and suggestions. Any remaining errors are
the authors sole responsibility.

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit

1. See Article 103 of the Law of Political Parties and Decision 2008/2 of the CCT.
2. Succession of dissolved parties under new names is another reason for the high number of party dissolu-
tion cases, and a demonstration of the constraint of the Court over the representation of parties.
3. The rsums of the justices were retrieved from:
4. The dissolution cases prior to the 1982 Constitution were not coded due to the lack of data on the official
webpage of the Constitutional Court, and the frequent military interventions in this era. Extending our
analyses to the pre-1982 era might have inflated our coefficients, and made our conclusions questionable.
5. The intercoder reliability among the authors, the Krippendorffs alpha coefficient, calculated from 20
randomly selected judicial review cases, is 0.98.
6. Appellant MPs from legislative political parties were coded from
KararlarBilgiBankasi/. The leftright score of an appellant political party in the CMP data, or the mean
score of appellant political parties weighted by their seat shares are then recoded into a dichotomous
leftright measure.
7. Dissent opinions in judicial review and party dissolution cases were coded from
8. Supplementary Appendix, which also includes coding rules, operationalization of the dependent and
independent variables, descriptive statistics, and robustness checks, is available online at http://ips.sage-
9. We inversely coded 19 out of 41 cases in which the Court prohibits an individual MP, or dissolves a
political party so that 0 corresponds to a dissent opinion against dissolution or prohibition.
10. The leftright score in the CMP dataset falls short of taking the idiosyncratic characteristics and the
multidimensionality of political spaces in the respective political systems into account. We also estimate
the justices two-dimensional ideal points, which is arguably a better way to approximate the underlying
ideological dispositions of justices who do not necessarily map onto the traditional leftright continuum.
The R code used to estimate the w-nominate ideal points is available from the authors.
11. Substitute justices who voted in fewer than three judicial review cases were excluded from empirical
12. Please see the supplementary file for more information about the operationalization of the variables
accounting for justices ideologies.
13. While conservative is arguably a better party family for some parties to which we refer, in an effort not
to confuse readers by using the same label both for justices and political parties, we refer to those parties
as religious. The ideological groupings of all political parties are presented in the supplementary file.
14. Out-of-sample predictions provide empirical support for our interactive hypothesis.

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Tokdemir and Moral 17

Author biographies
Mert Moral is PhD Candidate at Binghamton University (SUNY), USA. His research interests include politi-
cal polarization, voting behavior, political parties and party systems, representation, and political methodol-
ogy. He has previously published his research in Electoral Studies and International Journal of Electronic
Efe Tokdemir is PhD Candidate at Binghamton University (SUNY), USA. His research interests include
foreign policy and public opinion, international relations and domestic politics, terrorism, and politics in the
Middle East. He has previously published his research in Electoral Studies.

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