Sibel Oktay, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

University of Illinois at Springfield

Year of PhD: 2014

City: Chicago, Illinois

Country: United States

About Me:

Sibel Oktay (Ph.D 2014, Syracuse University) is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Springfield and co-director of the global studies degree program. Her research focuses on the influence of domestic political institutions on foreign policy decision-making and behavior, how foreign policy shapes public opinion and vote choice, and how the psychological traits of leaders affect these relationships. Her work has been published in the European Journal of Political Research, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Journal of European Public Policy, and European Security, among others. Her book project, under contract with the University of Michigan Press, investigates the effects of coalition politics and legislative dynamics on international commitments. Sibel's commentary have appeared on Vox as well as several international outlets from Brazil, Turkey, and Lebanon. She is a Public Voices Fellow of the University of Illinois x The Op-Ed Project during 2019-2020. 

Research Interests

Foreign Policy

Comparative Political Institutions

European Politics

Middle East & North African Politics

Coalition Governments

Political Leadership

Foreign Policy Analysis

Countries of Interest






Palestinian Territories


Journal Articles:

(2018) Chamber of Opportunities: Legislative Politics and Coalition Security Policy, British Journal of Politics and International Relations

This article adopts a ‘party-political’ approach to studying legislative influence on security policy-making. It argues that legislative logrolling constitutes a key mechanism for the government to secure votes in parliament while facilitating the opposition to advance its own interests, especially when the government requires parliament’s consent for security policy. The article investigates legislative logrolling in the context of weak executives, specifically looking at minority coalitions and majority coalitions with ideological and policy divergences. Logrolling is critical for these types of governments, as their structural and situational weaknesses force them to cooperate with opposition parties to maintain parliamentary support. Using the Danish and Dutch decisions to participate in the 2003 Iraq War, and Israel’s 2005 decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, this article elucidates the ways in which legislative logrolling between the governing and opposition parties facilitates security policy-making in parliament.

(2018) Taking Production Relations Seriously: The Role of Defence Firms in Armaments Cooperation, European Security

Coordinating defence-industrial relations towards harmonising and facilitating procurement policies, production processes and the joint operability of their member-states’ national defence sectors, International Armaments Organisations (IAOs) play an important role in armaments cooperation. How can we explain their institutional development? Existing literature tackles this question using International Relations theories to mid-range theories of institutions and integration. However, they adopt overly state-centric viewpoints, assume actor interests as given, and disregard the changes in the global economic landscape that constitute the backdrop of armaments cooperation. In response, we shift the focus onto a key group of actors: the defence firms. Using a Neo-Gramscian Historical Materialist approach, we investigate how the globalisation of the defence market has created a transnational defence-industrial class in Europe, and demonstrate how its economic interests have fundamentally shaped the institutional frameworks of European IAOs. We focus on the Organisation for Joint Armaments Cooperation (OCCAR) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) to illustrate our argument. Our conclusions have implications for the study of armaments cooperation, particularly highlighting how the economic nature of this policy domain necessitates a closer look at the global and regional production relations, and the agency of the defence firms.

(2017) Clarity of Responsibility and Foreign Policy Performance Voting, European Journal of Political Research

Do voters’ assessments of the government's foreign policy performance influence their vote intentions? Does the ‘clarity of responsibility’ in government moderate this relationship? Existing research on the United States demonstrates that the electorate's foreign policy evaluations influence voting behaviour. Whether a similar relationship exists across the advanced democracies in Europe remains understudied, as does the role of domestic political institutions that might generate responsibility diffusion and dampen the effect of foreign policy evaluations on vote choice. Using the attitudinal measures of performance from the 2011 Transatlantic Trends survey collected across 13 European countries, these questions are answered in this study through testing on incumbent vote the diffusion-inducing effects of five key domestic factors frequently used in the foreign policy analysis literature. Multilevel regression analyses conclude that the electorate's ability to assign punishment decreases at higher levels of responsibility diffusion, allowing policy makers to circumvent the electoral costs of unpopular foreign policy. Specifically, coalition governments, semi-presidential systems, ideological dispersion among the governing parties and the diverse allocation of the prime ministerial and foreign policy portfolios generate diffusion, dampening the negative effects of foreign policy disapproval on vote choice. This article contributes not only to the debate on the role of foreign policy in electoral politics, but also illustrates the consequential effects of domestic institutions on this relationship.

(2017) Quantitative Approaches in Coalition Foreign Policy: Scope, Content, Process, European Political Science

This article surveys the quantitative literature in coalition foreign policy. Tracing its development back to what we call the ‘first generation studies’ in Democratic Peace research, we illustrate that its theoretical and methodological foundations distinguish this literature from its predecessors. We then overview the existing studies along three dimensions: the nature of the dependent variables, the content of the key explanatory variables, and the processes that identify and systematise the institutional factors that influence coalition foreign policy. Our suggestions for future research highlight some of the puzzles motivated by the findings of this literature and the promise of multi-method designs.

(2014) Constraining or enabling? The effects of government composition on international commitments, Journal of European Public Policy

The effect of government composition on the ability to make international commitments is an ongoing debate in the literature. Using the veto players and clarity of responsibility theories, I introduce a nuanced understanding of government composition that considers the different types of multiparty governments and the degree of policy incongruence inside them. I test the effects of these variables on the intensity of international commitments with a post-Cold War events dataset of parliamentary European governments. The results of multilevel analyses show that oversized coalitions make more intense commitments than single-party majority governments through responsibility diffusion, though neither approach explains the commitment behavior of minimum winning coalitions. Finally, commitment intensity increases for minority coalitions if their ideological setup leaves the parliamentary opposition fragmented. Ultimately, a government's arithmetic and ideological composition conditions the intensity of its international commitments. I also find that European Union membership has no significant effect on commitment intensity.

Book Chapters:

(2017) Coalition Politics and Foreign Policy, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Departing from the “Democratic Peace” tradition, more recent research in Foreign Policy Analysis rejuvenates the study of coalitions in international politics. This literature not only encourages theory development by scrutinizing why coalitions behave differently than single-parties in the international arena but also bridges the gap between International Relations and Comparative Politics. Emphasizing the organic relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy, foreign policy researchers dissect coalition governments to highlight the role political parties play on foreign policy formulation and implementation. This literature also illustrates the merits of methodological plurality in studying foreign policy. Using a combination of comparative case studies, process tracing, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and regression modeling, it sheds light not only on the broader trends that characterize coalition foreign policy but also on the causal mechanisms and contextual factors which often go unaccounted for in purely statistical analyses. The recent advances in role and image theories in Foreign Policy Analysis are expected to influence the study of coalitions and their foreign policies, offering an interpretivist take alongside this positivist trajectory.

Media Appearances:

Newspaper Quotes:

(2019) Annahar (Lebanon)

I spoke to the Lebanese daily Annahar about whether the AKP’s defeat in the local elections could weaken his bargaining power regarding the purchasing of the S-400 missile system.

(2019) Vox

I spoke to Vox on the Istanbul mayoral re-election and its implications for Turkey’s national political scene.

(2019) Ahval (Turkey)

I spoke to Ahval News about the Menendez-Rubio bill that supports the new partnership between Israel, Cyprus and Greece in the Mediterranean — what does it mean for US-Turkey relations?

(2017) Correio Braziliense

I spoke to Correio Braziliense on the 2017 presidential referendum and what it means for Turkish politics.

(2016) De Groene Amsterdammer

I spoke to the Dutch news magazine, De Groene Amsterdammer, about Turkish foreign policy in Syria.

Blog Posts:

(2019) The Hill

U.S. President Donald J. Trump decided to pull troops from Syria now that the Caliphate of the so-called Islamic state has been defeated. This is a major blow to the Kurds in Syria, who have led the ground fight against ISIS since 2014 under the auspices of U.S. military support. It is also an astonishing move that appeases Turkish objectives in northern Syria despite Turkey’s recent acts of defiance against the transatlantic alliance. President Trump’s decision will erode U.S. credibility in the Middle East and will haunt American foreign policy in the region for years to come.

(2016) The Conversation

In this The Conversation piece, I discuss the potential consequences of Ambassador Karlov’s assassination for Turkish foreign policy in the region.

(2016) The Conversation

In this The Conversation piece I explain we should discuss the June 2016 Istanbul Ataturk Airport bombing in the context of Turkey's recent foreign policy mistakes. The essay was featured in numerous outlets including The Huffington Post, The New Republic, and Informed Comment.

(2014) E-International Relations

In this E-International Relations piece I discuss the prospects of the Kurdish peace process in the context of the 2014 presidential elections.