UK election results unlikely to affect relations with Turkey

MERVE AYDOĞAN @mgulaydogan
Published 07.06.2017 00:22

As the U.K. prepares to head to the polls tomorrow for parliamentary elections, the latest polls show current Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party leading over its rival Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Many have pointed out that May called the snap election in a bid to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations, to win more time to deal with the impact of the divorce set for June 19 and to strengthen her grip on the Conservative Party. However, regardless of the results tomorrow, Turkey's relations with the U.K. are likely to remain the same.

While Brexit and national security appeared to be the most important issues for the U.K., according to a public survey, Emre Gönen, an academic specializing in EU politics at Istanbul's Bilgi University and a Daily Sabah columnist, told Daily Sabah that Turkish-U.K. relations have always been good and will remain unchanged.

Although the Conservatives seem to be leading in the run-up to the elections, many are preparing for the unexpected as the British electoral system is based on the principle of first past the post, which can exaggerate parliamentary majorities where the majority vote in a constituency gets the win. However, the latest poll conducted by ComRes shows that voting intentions are currently at 47 percent for the Tories while Labor is at 35 percent. The same survey revealed May's growing unpopularity, as ComRes stated: "In February, she was the only party leader with a positive net favorability score, but since then her score has dropped 12 points to -3."

Gönen further said the recent terrorist attacks in the country will influence the U.K. elections, but it is unclear what the scope of that influence will be, adding that the Conservatives always use security-oriented rhetoric. Gönen warned to to expect the unexpected, adding: "It does not look too bright for May" due to the British electoral system.

As May accused Brussels last week of trying to influence the upcoming election with "threats against the U.K." over Brexit talks, Gönen emphasized that the U.K.'s Brexit decision was not beneficial to the country or Turkey. He said the U.K. has been the strongest supporter of Turkey's EU accession bid and, with Brexit, Turkey's hand in EU negotiations has been weakened.

Furthermore, recent comments from Eurasia Group's Managing Director Mujtaba Rahman and an associate at Group Charles Lichfield said: "May remains on course for victory in the U.K. general election on June 8 but her authority will likely be reduced rather than enhanced." They said: "Whatever the election result, the episode has changed her party's perception of May and will change the balance of power inside her government after the election. The affair has dented her image as a ‘strong and stable' leader, allowing her opponents to label her ‘weak and wobbly.' "

Tomorrow's elections will, however, solely take place to decide whether May, from the center-right Conservatives, or Corbyn of the liberal Labor Party, gets to sit down with Brussels and hammer out an exit deal that will define the country's trade and diplomatic ties with the EU. Their differing stances could set the tone for what both the U.K. and the EU expect will be two years of difficult talks on everything ranging from how much cash should be paid upon the exit to border arrangements for migrants, goods and services.

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