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Friends of the Court: The Republican Alliance and Selective Activism of the Constitutional Court of Turkey


  • I am greatly indebted to Joel S. Migdal and Rachel A. Cichowski for their support since the initial phases of this project, and to Herbert M. Kritzer and four anonymous reviewers, whose feedback contributed substantially to the final version of the manuscript. I would like to thank Kristin Bakke, Rachel A. Cichowski, George I. Lovell, Michael W. McCann, Joel S. Migdal, Erik Wibbles, and members of the Turkish Studies Group at the University of Washington for reading and commenting on various drafts of the manuscript.

Please direct correspondence to Ceren Belge, Department of Political Science, Box 353530, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3530; e-mail:


During the past two decades, scholars have noted a global expansion of judicial power and court-led rights revolutions. Far from leading a rights-revolution, the Constitutional Court of Turkey became renowned for its restrictive take on civil liberties during this period. Why are some high courts more activist than others in protecting and expanding civil rights and liberties? I argue that judicial power and judicial independence offer incomplete explanations of judicial activism on questions of rights. Even powerful courts are activist only selectively, using their clout to protect some groups while suppressing the demands of others. Building on perspectives on legal mobilization and judicial entrenchment, I argue that the sociopolitical alliances in which high courts and judiciaries participate explain the selective nature of their activism. The initial parameters of these alliances are set during critical junctures when formerly dominant coalitions are displaced and new institutions entrench new alliances. Such alliances are not static, however, and struggles within alliances can transform high courts' orientations on rights questions.