Blake Wood
Publish Date

Sibel Oktay, University of Illinois Springfield associate professor and director of the School of Politics and International Affairs, has written her first book titled “Governing Abroad: Coalition Politics and Foreign Policy in Europe.”

“Governing Abroad” unpacks the little-known world of coalition governments. From Austria to New Zealand, coalition governments often pave the road to foreign policy. In Western Europe, nearly 90 percent of postwar governments include two or more political parties. Israel, the Middle East’s only consolidated democracy according to many, has never experienced single-party rule in its history. Even the United Kingdom, known for its long streak of single-party rule, now navigates multiparty cabinets.

“Coalitions are everywhere, but we still have little understanding of how they act in foreign affairs,” Oktay states in the book’s description. “History shows that coalitions can sometime engage in powerful international commitments such as participating in military operations, but at other times, they postpone their decisions, water down their policy positions, or promise to do less than they otherwise would.”

In the book, Oktay argues that the specific constellation of parties in government explains why some coalitions can make more assertive foreign policy decisions than others. Building on the rich literature in political science on coalitions, legislatures and voting behavior, the book weaves together sophisticated statistical analyses of foreign policy events across 30 European countries alongside in-depth case studies from Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland. The book brings political parties back into the study of foreign policy, demonstrating that the size of the coalition, the ideological proximity of the governing parties and their relationship with the parliamentary opposition together influence the government’s ability to act in the international arena.

“This book challenges our existing perceptions about the constraints and weaknesses of coalition governments,” states the University of Michigan Press, who published the book. “It sheds new light on the conditions that allow them to act decisively abroad.”

The book is now available for purchase in hard cover and paperback. Free open digital access to the book is available on the publisher’s website.

An expert on international affairs, Oktay was named a nonresident senior fellow of public opinion and foreign policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2021. She has a Ph.D. in political science from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.