What’s at Stake in the Dutch Election

The Hague Netherlands
Dutch government offices and parliament buildings in The Hague (iStock/Fotolupa)

This Dutch election campaign has been the least memorable in my lifetime. There are two more weeks to go, and two more televised debates. The first, last Sunday, failed to change the dynamic of the race.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is almost certain to win reelection. His liberal VVD (of which I am a member) is projected to win 37 to 41 out of 150 seats, up from 33.

Support for the other parties has changed little in recent months. The ruling Christian Democrats and Christian Union are stable in the polls. The social-liberal D66, the fourth party in Rutte’s government, appears to have lost some support to the liberals on the right and Labor on the left. Labor has also won (back) supporters from the more left-wing Greens and Socialists.

On the far right, the Trumpist Forum for Democracy could take two or three seats from Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, but its popularity has collapsed from two years ago, when it briefly rivaled Rutte’s in the polls.

Economic and social issues feel less important when Dutch voters still face daily restrictions due to coronavirus. Shopping on appointment was allowed again this week, but hotels, museums and restaurants remain closed. A 9 PM curfew is in effect. Rutte benefits from being the incumbent in a crisis. With the exception of the parties on the far right — which are unlikely to end up in government — most have, in some cases lukewarmly, supported his COVID-19 policies.

But there are other major issues that will play a role in the next four years, from climate and energy to labor law to an overhaul of child benefits.

I’ll walk you through ten of them as well as the positions of the mainstream parties on those issues, out of which the next government will probably be formed. Read more “What’s at Stake in the Dutch Election”

Energy Plays Key Role in Dutch Election

Netherlands wind turbines
Wind turbines near Velp, the Netherlands (Unsplash/Sander Weeteling)

Energy is one of the top issues in the Dutch parliamentary election, which will take place next month. Right-of-center parties have followed the traditionally more environmentally conscious Greens and social-liberal D66 (of which I am a member) in their ambition to adhere to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. But there are differences.

While there is consensus on some topics, such as biomass and natural gas, nuclear energy and windmills are controversial. Read more “Energy Plays Key Role in Dutch Election”

Dutch Intervene to Break Stalemate in Curaçao Legislature

Willemstad Curaçao
Aerial view of Willemstad, Curaçao (iStock/Texpan)

The Dutch government has intervened on Curaçao to break what it described as an “antidemocratic” impasse on the island.

The government of what is nominally an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands had requested the intervention to reconstitute the island legislature. “At the moment,” Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath said earlier this week, “democracy isn’t functioning on Curaçao as it should be.”

All ten opposition lawmakers had boycotted virtual meetings of the Estates, denying the ruling parties, who also have ten seats, a quorum to swear in a new deputy: Emmilou Capriles, who replaces the stepped-down Jeser El Ayoubi.

The Dutch government has now appointed Capriles by decree.

The same opposition lawmakers tried to use the death of a ruling party deputy to bring down the government last summer. They failed, but not before encouraging riots. Read more “Dutch Intervene to Break Stalemate in Curaçao Legislature”

Hit Piece Calls Center-Left Sánchez Spain’s Donald Trump

Pedro Sánchez Pablo Iglesias
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

I’ve been a fan of Yascha Mounk’s Persuasion, which was founded to resist the illiberal turn in American media. The newsletter deliberately publishes analysis and commentary from across the political spectrum to make it readers think. I’ve disagreed with several pieces, and that’s the point.

This is the first time I’m disappointed by one.

Mounk has published a hit piece that makes Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a mainstream social democrat, out to be the greatest threat to Spanish democracy since Francisco Franco! Read more “Hit Piece Calls Center-Left Sánchez Spain’s Donald Trump”

What Divides Dutch Voters

The Hague Netherlands
The Hofvijfer in The Hague, the Netherlands, November 29, 2020 (European Commission/Robert Meerding)

Parliamentary elections are held in the Netherlands in three weeks. Polls predict a victory for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party (of which I am a member), giving it 38 to 42 out of 150 seats, up from 33.

Support for most other parties is stable. The social-liberal D66, a junior party in Rutte’s government, and the far-left Socialists would each lose a few seats to Labor. The far-right Forum for Democracy, which tied with Rutte in midterm elections, has imploded. It would win fewer seats than the animal rights party.

The liberals benefit from having the most diverse base in terms of age, education, geography, but not gender. Other parties appeal more to certain groups — although the Netherlands is still a long way from the United States, where identity is crowding out issues. Dutch voters are fickle. Only one in five consistently votes for the same party. Read more “What Divides Dutch Voters”

Draghi Understands What Italy Needs

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi waves at reporters outside the Palazzo Chigi in Rome, February 13 (Governo Italiano)

Mario Draghi is off to a good start. The former central banker has won the support of Italy’s major political parties to form a government and he understands the reforms it needs to undertake.

His challenge will be convincing the parties to see those reforms through.

Receiving more than €200 billion from the EU’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund should help. A chunk of the money will go to vaccinating Italy’s population of 60 million, but there will be more than enough left over to invest in long-term growth.

Money isn’t everything, though. Bringing Italy’s economy back to life after it shrunk almost 9 percent in 2020 will require making the sort of choices its politicians have avoided for years. Read more “Draghi Understands What Italy Needs”

Catalan Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next

Pere Aragonès
Acting Catalan president Pere Aragonès outside the headquarters of his Republican Left party in Barcelona, January 10 (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya/Marc Puig)

The Catalan branch of Spain’s ruling Socialist Party shared first place with the separatist Republican Left in regional elections on Sunday, but the unionist camp as a whole lost support relative to pro-independence parties.

Both the Republican and Socialist party leaders have announced they will put themselves forward as candidates for the regional presidency.

The Republican candidate, Pere Aragonès, is most likely to succeed. Read more “Catalan Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next”

Republicans, Socialists Share First Place in Catalonia

Palau de la Generalitat Barcelona Spain
The palace of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona, Spain at night (iStock/Tomas Sereda)
  • The Catalan branch of Spain’s ruling Socialist Party shared first place with the separatist Republican Left in regional elections on Sunday.
  • Pro-independence parties won 74 out of 135 seats, up four. The parties have governed since 2012.
  • The Republican Left and Socialists would also have a majority with the left-wing Catalonia in Common-Podem.
  • The far-right Vox entered Catalonia’s parliament for the first time, but the right as a whole lost twenty seats.
  • Turnout was 54 percent, the lowest since the restoration of democracy. Read more “Republicans, Socialists Share First Place in Catalonia”

Catalan Election Guide

Barcelona Spain
View of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Ferran Fusalba)

Catalans vote in regional elections on Sunday that are unlikely to produce a breakthrough in their region’s acrimonious relations with the rest of Spain.

I’ll be live-blogging the results on Sunday night. In the meantime, this explainer will get you up to speed. Read more “Catalan Election Guide”

Three-Way Race for First Place in Catalonia

Salvador Illa
Spanish health minister Salvador Illa listens to a debate in parliament in Madrid, October 28, 2020 (PSOE/Eva Ercolanese)

Pro-independence parties are projected to defend their majority in the Catalan parliament on Sunday, but the regional branch of Spain’s ruling Socialist Party could place first in the election.

The Catalan Socialists, led by former health minister Salvador Illa, who resigned from Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ cabinet two weeks ago to campaign, are polling at 21-23 percent, up from 14 percent in the last regional election and 20.5 percent in the last national election.

The Socialists and their allies in the far-left Podemos (We Can), who have 6-8 percent support, oppose Catalan independence but do want to give the region more autonomy. Although talks about transferring more power to Barcelona are still on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Read more “Three-Way Race for First Place in Catalonia”