UK election results will not affect relations with Turkey, experts say
by Merve Aydoğan
ANKARAMay 05, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Merve Aydoğan
May 05, 2015 12:00 am
As Britain's May 7 parliamentary elections approach, experts believe that while the results will be close, they will not have any effect on bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.K. However, the U.K.'s rapidly increasing foreign-born population is perceived to be threatening to split the Conservative Party vote. In this regard, British opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Prime Minister David Cameron's government of "small-minded isolationism" during a recent election campaign speech on May 1. Meanwhile, Cameron has been plagued on the election campaign trail by gaffes, recently saying the election is a "career-defining moment" while he meant to say "country-defining moment."
With changes in demographics and rising economic concerns, surveys for the upcoming U.K. elections signal that no political party will win a majority in parliament. Speaking to Daily Sabah, British academic Steven Seggie said: "The biggest story will be the wiping out of the Labour Party in Scotland with the Scottish National Party (SNP) sweeping almost all the seats in Scotland."
Commenting on the predictions for the U.K. elections and their significance for bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.K., an associate fellow from Chatham House, Professor Richard G. Whitman said: "While it is incredibly difficult to make any precise prediction, the Labour Party would attain more seats than the Conservative Party in the parliament, however neither will have enough to form the government." Whitman also underlined that there is a certainty for a coalition, but the discussion is whether it would be an informal or formal coalition.
In addition, Whitman said: "The current coalition government has made emphasis on strengthening the bilateral relations between the U.K. and Turkey under the strategy of focusing on rising regional powers that are based on having influence over the region." However, he continued by adding that the debates in the UK over the EU issue have overshadowed this strategy. "With the Conservatives becoming a majority, their position will be very keen to pursue strengthening Turkey-U.K. relations while addressing the EU debates. On the other hand, Labour will put emphasis on the EU issue," he added.
While Seggie and Whitman predict Labour to form the government with external support from the SNP, Mehmet Müderrisoğlu, an analyst from the Eurasia Group, also spoke to Daily Sabah and predicted: "Neither of the two main parties are likely to obtain a majority, but the Conservatives will likely come first." He further added: "A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is the most likely outcome, while Labour's successful campaign suggests chances for a minority Labour government cannot be ignored."
Regarding Turkey-U.K. relations, Seggie further said that there would be no change in the short-run: "No matter whether the Labour Party leads the government or the Conservatives, I don't imagine the fundamentals of the relationship with Turkey will change." Similarly, Ziya Meral, a London-based Turkish-British researcher, said in comments to Daily Sabah: "A Labour or Conservative-led government will not affect or alter the trajectory of Turkish-British relations. Both [Prime Ministers Gordon] Brown and [Tony] Blair's Labour governments had been keen to support closer relations with Turkey and supported Turkey's EU bid. The Conservative government has pursued the same policies and sought further closeness with Turkey across multiple areas of cooperation from trade to science to security. UK foreign policy on Turkey has been consistent and British-Turkish relations remain to be one of the most stable bilateral relations Turkey has."
Müderrisoğlu also said that the level of cooperation offered by the two main parties for Turkey regarding Syria would be similar. He said: "In the less likely event of a minority Labour government, aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey will be greater since Miliband favors exploring other routes than military means to actually help the people of Syria."
Furthermore, in reference to the U.K.'s lack of interest toward foreign policy, Whitman said that the foreign policy issue would be placed at the top on the agenda once the elections are over. Meanwhile, Müderrisoğlu said: "Election campaigns center around economic recovery and housing rather than restoring international peace and Britain's global influence." Meral underlined that such vision "does reflect a worrying level of insularity among British voters and short-sighted perspectives over the U.K.'s place in Europe and the wider world."