Observers say British-Asian voters could have an important role in determining the outcome of Thursday’s parliamentary elections in Britain.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the leader of the Labour Party, David Cameron of the Conservative Party and Nick Clegg, the standard bearer for the Liberal Democrats are running close in many political opinion polls.
Muhammad Anwar, professor of Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick, says the narrowness of the race has all three of the main parties scrambling to appeal to the nation’s one million voters of Asian extraction. In a close election, Asian support could have a signifant impact on the outcome.
“This time I think there is real competition between the three main political parties to get support from Asians and other ethnic minorities,” Anwar said.
Anwar, a longtime observer of British elections, says Asians will be important in this election also because of the concentration of Asian voters geographically in England and because of their traditionally high turnout rate.
Anwar says the concerns of British-Asian voters mirror those of the population at large. “It is generally education, economy, health,” he said. But Anwar said British-Asian Muslims are particularly concerned about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as civil liberties issues and the rise of “Islamophobia” and descrimination against Muslims.
Anwar said he believes the Liberal Democrat Party is gaining Asian support because of the Iraq war. “Traditionally more Asians used to vote for [the] Labor Party but more recently I think that has changed,” he said.
Asians are also better represented in the roster of candidates for this election. “All three main political parties have selected a large number of Asian candidates,” Anwar pointed out.
“I think this is a good sign of their integration in the mainstream politics and other institutions in this country,” he said.
With the election contest as close as it is, British Asians may have a unique chance this time to influence the results.