First Advisor

Lindsay J. Benstead

Term of Graduation

Summer 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs and Policy


Public Affairs and Policy




candidate selection, electoral competition strategies, elite behavior, intersectionality, polarization, women's representation



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 174 pages)


Do party elites use intersectionality as an electoral competition strategy? In this dissertation, I study this question in the context of mayoral elections in Turkey by focusing on the competition between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the People's Republican Party (CHP). Examining the gender and religious orientation of candidates from these parties, local variations in party affiliations, and partisan polarization that is decisive in vote choice at the district level, I argue that the Islamist AKP strategically selects secular-appearing women to leverage their intersecting identities in races where secularist partisan polarization against this party is high.

Drawing on the original candidate dataset and qualitative interviews with political party elites, I find that the Islamist AKP leverage stereotypes associated with women and their intersectional identities to appeal to voters of the secularist CHP in races where negative partisanship against the AKP is high. The findings reveal that the AKP nominates secular-appearing women candidates to signal tolerance to the voters who are concerned about Islamization and the government’s intervention in secularist lifestyle choices. I also find that the party selects these candidates to mimic democracy in districts where voters are concerned about recent authoritarianism under the AKP regime, as secular-appearing women are stereotyped as Westernized, modern, and democratic. These findings make significant contributions to the women’s representation literature. They show that women with intersecting identities are selected strategically to run in challenging districts when their intersectional identities provide party elites with strategic benefits to signal to voters of the rival party in highly polarized elections on social identities. These findings show that, in electoral contexts where women's identities play a central role in symbolic contestations between two opposing partisan groups, the symbolic value attached to women's identities increases and creates incentives for party elites to leverage women's intersecting identities.


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