Everything You Need to Know About the Elections in the Netherlands

Flag of the Netherlands
Flag of the Netherlands (Pixabay/Ben Kerckx)

Parliamentary elections will be held in the Netherlands on March 15. Here is everything you need to know about them.

Bottom lines

  • Geert Wilders’ nationalist Freedom Party could become the single largest, but he is unlikely to join, much less lead, a government.
  • Prime Minister Mark Rutte is more likely to stay in power at the head of a broad coalition of parties close to the center.
  • Center-right parties are keen to team up in order to enact labor and tax reforms that Rutte’s current coalition partner, Labor, has blocked.
  • Due to the nature of Dutch coalition politics, sweeping changes, like a renationalization of health care or a Dutch exit from the European Union, are unlikely. Read more

Rural Areas and Small Towns Feel Left Behind as Cities Grow

London, England at night, February 14, 2012
London, England at night, February 14, 2012 (Warren Chrismas)

Last month, I argued here that the election of Donald Trump in America and the vote to leave the EU in Britain could be understood as rural revolts against “the city”. This is a subplot in the story of the blue-red, cosmopolitan-communitarian culture war that is shaping up to be the defining political divide of our time.

I focused on the electoral politics of city versus countryside at the time and sort of skipped the question of why exactly there is so much discontent in the former.

Jonn Elledge answers that question in Britain’s New Statesman.

Put crudely, he argues the reason is that cities have won. Read more

Andrei G. Karlov Is Not Franz Ferdinand

Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany speaks with Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian crown prince, circa 1910
Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany speaks with Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian crown prince, circa 1910

The high-profile killing was everything one could want from a public assassination. Cameras were live; the Western media, less prone to state censorship, watching. The assassin even had a chance to deliver a short speech that was straight to the point and then was promptly killed by Turkish security services. From the standpoint of political murder, it ticked all the boxes.

It goes to show that humanity has made a good leap forward in education that #FranzFerdinand briefly trended on Twitter. That people knew of the long-dead archduke, and knew his killing touched off World War I, is a testament that maybe teachers are doing a good job after all.

Well, a decent job. Because the killing of Ambassador Andrei Karlov is a blip, not a world-shaking event.

There’s a very good reason for it: Russia needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Russia. Even if Vladimir Putin’s own mother was killed in Ankara by a similar rogue agent, Moscow would still very likely not go to war with Turkey.

That’s because Franz Ferdinand tripped a geopolitical bomb waiting to go off. There is no such bomb between Turkey and Russia. Read more

The French Far Right’s Family Feud Explained

French lawmaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen speaks at an event in Mayenne, September 1, 2012
French lawmaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen speaks at an event in Mayenne, September 1, 2012 (FN)

Politico reports that a long-simmering dispute between the two most prominent women of the French far right is getting out of hand.

There is even a risk of a split in the Front national, the website argues: between the faction of leader Marine Le Pen and the socially conservative wing that has rallied around her 26-year-old niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

The fact that it’s a family feud, in which the Le Pen patriarch and Vichy apologist Jean-Marie inevitably resurfaces, makes this a headline-grabbing story.

But there are deeper, geographical and political divides at play that have less to do with personality. Read more

Joining Assad and Russia Against Islamic State Is Foolish

Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

One of Donald Trump’s most foolish foreign-policy proposals is to team up with Iran, Russia and Bashar al-Assad to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,” the American president-elect said last month, referring to the self-proclaimed Islamic State by an acronym.

“Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS.”

If that were true, a pact might make sense. But it isn’t. And even if it were, the arguments are against an alliance. Read more

Why Taiwan Could (Still) Start World War III

An F-18 fighter jet prepares for launch on flight deck of the American aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on deployment in the Pacific Ocean, June 27, 2012
An F-18 fighter jet prepares for launch on flight deck of the American aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on deployment in the Pacific Ocean, June 27, 2012 (USN/Ian A. Cotter)

Surely you know already the tripwire: Taiwan is a de facto country but a de jure province of mainland China. The people’s republic wants to bring it back under mainland China’s rule while the people of Taiwan want exactly the opposite.

Moreover, Taiwan’s military security is guaranteed by the United States via the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which stipulates the United States must respond militarily to a communist invasion.

So if the PRC tries to bring Taiwan back into the fold by military force, the United States must retaliate. Conventional battles turn to nuclear battles and then we all die in the irradiated glow of our own monstrous weapons. Read more

Merkel Proposes to Ban the Burqa: Why and Why Now?

German chancellor Angela Merkel addresses parliament in Berlin, September 14, 2012
German chancellor Angela Merkel addresses parliament in Berlin, September 14, 2012 (Bundesregierung/Guido Bergmann)

Angela Merkel’s proposal to ban the burqa has caught some of her foreign admirers by surprise.

A headline at the left-leaning Vox reads, “Germany’s famously tolerant chancellor just proposed a burqa ban,” implying it is both intolerant and out of character for Merkel.

Vox is right when it argues the timing is political. Merkel recently announced she will seek a fourth term as chancellor next year and is facing criticism of her immigration policy from the right.

But this is not an about-face. If anything, her open-doors immigration policy was. Read more