Fırat Kimya

Fırat Kimya

Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, Swarthmore College


I consider myself to be both a scholar of political parties and regimes, and I see these subfields as intertwined. My research promotes interdisciplinary learning by employing qualitative and quantitative methods to address significant questions in the study of comparative politics.


Political economy of corruption in Turkey: declining petty corruption, rise of cronyism?
Turkish Studies, 20:3, 351-376, 2019.

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Democratic transition and party polarization: A fuzzy regression discontinuity design approach (with Ubeydullah Ademi), Party Politics, 2023.

Executive decrees, omnibus bills, and the politics of abusive constitutionalism (with Abdullah Sait Özcan), Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 2023.

The Stability and Growth Pact’s “Unusual Events” Clause and the Funding of the Refugee Crisis in the European Union (with James Savage), International Journal of Public Administration, 2023.

Work Under Review or Revision

Political Repression and Defensive Party-Building

Often, scholars of party politics focus on specific types of party-building activities such as recruitment of members from home constituencies, territorial expansion through branches, and professional electoral campaigns. However, when the opposition faces political repression, it allocates fewer resources to mass party-building and concentrates more on defensive strategies such as secret recruitment, the formation of underground cells, and operating in exile. By analyzing the party-building activities of the Young Turks (1889-1908) who established the first organized opposition in the Ottoman Empire, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), I argue that repression impedes the formation of the mass-mobilizing party machinery. I adopt a multi-method methodology and conduct a historically-minded within-case analysis of repression and party formation. I rely on archival sources made up of spying reports, censorship decisions, and exile decrees and CUP party branches between 1889-1908. To examine the causal effect of political repression, I exploit a natural experiment in which an exogenous European intervention in Ottoman Macedonia gradually ended Ottoman rule and rendered Sultan’s repression ineffective between 1903–1908. The intervention created more liberal setting and allowed the Young Turks to build a mass-mobilizing party machinery and successfully execute the 1908 Constitutional Revolution.

Political Economy of Budgeting under Autocratization (with James Savage)

How does democratic backsliding affect budgetary policies? This paper argues that executive aggrandizement creates an autocratization effect in central government spending. We use data from central state budget from the Ministry of Treasure and Finance and present an in-depth analysis of Turkey under the consecutive AKP governments between 2002-2020. We argue that budgetary policies became more centralized while spending patterns shifted from institutions of horizontal accountability to the executive office and institutions of national defense. As a result of the centralization following the transition to the presidential regime, the parliament became less consequential while the presidential office increased its discretion over budgetary affairs. Our analysis draws attention to an under-investigated aspect of the recent democratic backsliding in Turkey contributes to the growing literature on political economy of budgeting in Turkey from the perspective of declining horizontal accountability.

Post-election repression and Local Governance: Evidence from 2019 Local Elections in İstanbul (with Abdullah Sait Özcan)

We explore the aftermath of electoral defeats for incumbents in competitive authoritarian regimes, positing that they escalate repression in response. While prevailing research on democratic backsliding typically analyzes incumbent repression at the national level, we focus on its effects on local political actors. Our argument centers on subnational variation in repression, influenced by the incumbent’s strength within the local city council. Specifically, incumbents tend to employ legislative blockage to hinder opposition mayors from efficiently delivering public goods when their party holds a majority of seats in the city council. We present original data on legislative proposals in city councils and employ a mixed-method approach to investigate this phenomenon. The 2019 local elections in İstanbul offer a unique opportunity to probe the dynamics of repression against the opposition at the local level. Our findings underscore that repression neutralizes emerging political leaders, thereby undermining municipal administration in the process.

Elite Networks and Personalized Rule (with Abdullah Sait Özcan and Omer Faruk Yalcin)

The erosion of democracy by democratically elected incumbents is one of the twenty-first century’s most common forms of democratic backsliding. While much work focuses on the implications of these processes for the judiciary, press, and the security apparatus, there is less attention on how a leader’s inner circle changes as a result of increasingly personalistic rule. We look into the changes in the network of ruling party (AKP) elites that accompanied Turkey’s trajectory. We focus on the party’s Central Decision-making and Administrative Committee (MKYK), which is the main internal decision-making body. We use an original dataset of all members of the MKYK and all cabinet ministers in the 2001 to 2021 period. Using tools of network analysis, we show the changing structure of the elite network in Turkey’s ruling party over time. In particular, we show 1) the elite network within the ruling party became much more centralized over time, 2) how Erdogan reacted to the emergence of alter- native centers of power with dismissals and removals at party conventions, 3) how Erdogan became a more influential over time at the expense of the cabinet ministers. We also contribute to the study of elite networks in the absence of direct data on relationships between actors by using Google search results instead.

Works in Progress

State Repression and Democratization: Turkey since the Late Nineteenth Century.
Do Transitions Spread? Impact of Transitions on Contiguous Party Politics (with Ubeydullah Ademi)
The Electoral Impact of Social Centers for Refugees on Incumbent Support (with Ubeydullah Ademi and Abdullah Sait Özcan)