Comparative; Current Events; Democratization; Middle East/Near East Studies; Turkish Studies;
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Under what conditions do voters reward a candidate who has sacrificed for his political beliefs? A theory linking political sacrifice to an electoral advantage is supported with evidence from Turkey and Tunisia—two countries where Islamist politicians experienced long-standing political repression. Findings from an original survey experiment in Turkey suggest that exposure to information about a candidate's political imprisonment significantly improves respondents' ideological affinity with the candidate. In addition, respondents who identify as co-victims or who have low political knowledge are more likely to vote for a candidate who was imprisoned. These findings hold regardless of which party the candidate belongs to. Respondents presented with a candidate from the Islamist Justice and Development Party also report higher levels of trust and closeness with the imprisoned candidate. The theory is bolstered with further survey evidence from Turkey and Tunisia and 50 in-depth interviews with politicians from Tunisia’s nine largest political parties. Scope conditions are established with null findings from a survey experiment conducted in Tunisia, following a period of backlash against the Islamist Al-Nahda and the subsequent rise of an autocratic successor party Nidaa Tounes to power.