We are thrilled to share that Aytug Sasmaz, a 2021-22 CDDRL postdoctoral fellow, has been awarded the Edward M. Chase Prize by the Department of Government at Harvard University for his dissertation, as well as the POP Best Paper Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the American Political Science Association (APSA).
The Edward M. Chase Prize is one of three dissertation prizes awarded annually by Harvard's Department of Government to dissertations defended that year across the field of political science. The Chase Prize recognizes the best dissertation on a subject relating to the promotion of world peace. Titled “Electoral Weakness of Secular Parties in the Middle East and North Africa during the Post-Uprisings Era of the 2010s: Evidence from Tunisia and Turkey,” Sasmaz’s dissertation explores the reasons behind the weak electoral appeal of secular parties in the Middle East after the popular uprisings of 2011-2013 and why they could not form a robust electoral alternative to Islamist parties. Using interviews with party elites, original large-scale candidate surveys, contemporaneous household surveys, and conjoint experiments in Tunisia and Turkey, he shows that secular parties suffer from disadvantages in political selection and organizational cohesion, which leads to a valence deficit and electoral disadvantage.
The POP Best Paper Award recognizes the best paper delivered on a Political Organizations and Parties-sponsored panel at the preceding (2021) APSA annual meeting. Sasmaz’s paper, “Unequal Political Selection across the Secular-Islamist Divide: Evidence from the First Democratic Local Elections in Tunisia” is based on a chapter from his dissertation. It is a comprehensive and comparative description of candidate selection processes in the main secular and Islamist parties. It shows that the secular party in Tunisia ends up with less competent candidates, even though the secular voter base has a higher share of well-educated and engaged citizens. The paper argues that intra-party factional struggles inhibit the secular party’s capacity to hire high-quality candidates.
Aytug Sasmaz is a political scientist working on political parties, social policy, and democratic decline, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. His work also explores voters' responses to executive aggrandizement (focusing on Turkey) and social welfare in the context of ethnic and organizational diversity (focusing on Lebanon). He received his PhD in political science from Harvard University Government Department (July 2021). Prior to this, he worked as an education policy analyst in Turkey, managing several research projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, World Bank, and UNICEF. Sasmaz holds a BA degree in Political Science from Boğaziçi University, and Master's degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science and Brown University. Beginning in August 2022, he will be an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Bryn Mawr College.