- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Jonas Bergan Draege: Protests and Party Politics on the Ground in Turkey

  • Jacob Carozza
| Spring 2018

Though he was raised in a small town in the west of Norway, Jonas Bergan Draege has always had the Middle East on his mind.

The postdoctoral fellow at the Belfer Center's Middle East Initiative traveled to the region as a young boy with his father, a librarian who worked on restoration projects in Egypt and Gaza. Draege spent further time in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, interning at the Norwegian embassy in Jordan and working as a translator in Syria for a news organization based in Lebanon.

When his PhD program began at the European University Institute about two years later, millions of Turks were taking to the streets to protest the increasingly authoritarian government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in what would be dubbed the Gezi Park protests.

"Suddenly you had a more visible - at least to outsiders - reaction to frightening tendencies in the Turkish government," Draege said.

Draege's research focuses on the reactions of Turkish political parties to the protests. He examined countless hours of speeches in parliament, looked at budget data, and spoke with contacts in Turkish institutions. He found that the main opposition parties have largely co-opted the rhetoric of the protests, but missed their window of opportunity to force real policy change. Erdogan's repression of political freedoms has since accelerated.

"I think this is a prime example of a reaction to democratic backsliding," Draege said. "And I think this has lessons for not only a country of 81 million people, but also for a large number of countries in he world that are now experiencing the same kind of democratic backsliding."

At the Middle East Initiative, Draege is expanding his work into a book, and plans to return to Turkey in late March for more on-the-ground research.

He also plans to teach this summer at the University of Oslo, his alma mater, and record new episodes of his Norwegian-language social science podcast "Politikk og Rovere" ("Politics and Robbers").

Draege's fellowship at the Middle East Initiative ends in June. He praised the initiative's approach to political science, which he said emphasizes systematic collection and thorough examination of data.

"I'm so happy to be at the Middle East Initiative," Draege said. "You have some of the best researchers in political science in the Middle East based there, in the immediate vicinity but also at the initiative itself."

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Carozza, Jacob. “Jonas Bergan Draege: Protests and Party Politics on the Ground in Turkey.” Belfer Center Newsletter. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (Spring 2018).

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