Dutch Ruling Parties Likely to Lose Upper House Majority

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives in Brussels for a meeting with other European leaders, February 12, 2015
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives in Brussels for a meeting with other European leaders, February 12, 2015 (European Council)

The ruling parties in the Netherlands are down in the polls and likely to lose their majority in provincial and Senate elections next month.

According to a poll of polls published by the national broadcaster NOS, three of the four coalition parties would lose seats. Only the small Christian Union would gain.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right liberals remain the largest party in the polls. The Greens and far-right Freedom Party compete for second place. Forum for Democracy, another far-right party, is up as well.

Another poll has found that only a third of voters want Rutte’s four-party government to continue.

The NOS cautions that next month’s elections could pan out differently. Far-right voters are less likely to turn out in local and regional elections. The middle-of-the-road Christian Democrats, who are currently in government, usually overperform. Read more

What the European Election Polls Reveal

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016 (European Parliament)

Expect to read this headline a lot between now and the European elections in May: “Euroskeptics to take fifth of European Parliament seats.”

It sounds scary, but it’s really not so much of a change and the more interesting developments are happening on the pro-European side. Read more

What to Expect from Snap Elections in Spain

The Palacio de las Cortes, seat of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, in Madrid, August 16, 2017
The Palacio de las Cortes, seat of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, in Madrid, August 16, 2017 (Shutterstock/Vivvi Smak)

Snap elections are likely in Spain after Catalan pro-independence parties joined the right-wing opposition in voting down Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ 2019 spending plan.

The Catalans gave Sánchez a majority to oust the People’s Party’s Mariano Rajoy in June. They demanded a legal independence referendum for their support, which Sánchez refused.

Here is how early elections could pan out. Read more

Germany’s Nord Stream Climbdown Should Put Ostpolitik to Rest

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin deliver a news conference in Sochi, May 18, 2018
German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin deliver a news conference in Sochi, May 18, 2018 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Frederick Studemann argues in the Financial Times that Germany’s Ostpolitik breathes its last in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline controversy.

Germany’s allies in Central European and North America have for years argued against the extension of the Baltic Sea pipeline, arguing — correctly — that it is a political project for Moscow. It doesn’t need the extra capacity. It wants to cut its dependence on Russia-wary transit states in Eastern Europe, most notably Ukraine. Read more

Spanish Right Loses Its Mind Over Concession to Catalans

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018 (La Moncloa)

From the opprobrium being heaped on Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez from the right, you would think he had just signed away half the country.

Pablo Casado, the leader of the conservative People’s Party, has accused the socialist of “high treason” and argued Spain now faces the gravest threat to its democracy since the failed military coup of 1981.

Albert Rivera of the liberal Citizens has called Sánchez “a danger for Spain”.

What horrible crime has Sánchez committed?

He has agreed to appoint a facilitator in talks with the separatist government in Catalonia. Read more

After May’s Deal Defeated, Brexit at Impasse

The Houses of Parliament in London, England at dawn, April 14, 2011
The Houses of Parliament in London, England at dawn, April 14, 2011 (Chris Goldberg)

Last night, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was voted down by the British parliament in an historic defeat.

This came even after she delayed the vote, which was meant to take place in December, to try to shore up support for the agreement.

The three largest opposition parties — Labour, the Scottish Nationalists and the Liberal Democrats — voted against the deal. So did the junior governing party, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP), along with 118 of May’s own Conservatives.

In all, the treaty, which is meant to regulate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, was rejected by 432 to 202 votes. Read more

Don’t Fear Dutchification

Dutch government buildings in The Hague, March 29, 2015
Dutch government buildings in The Hague, March 29, 2015 (Pixabay/Unsplash)

The Financial Times argues that the big political story in Europe is not so much the rise of populism as the fragmentation of electorates and the parties that represent them.

  • In Spain, once-dominant conservative and socialist parties must compete with liberals, nationalists and the far left.
  • Neither the center-left nor the center-right bloc has a majority in the Swedish parliament anymore and neither is willing to allow the far-right Sweden Democrats to become kingmakers.
  • The far-right Alternative and the left-leaning Greens have eaten into support for the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in Germany.
  • In what the Financial Times describes as “the most extreme example of such fragmentation,” the Netherlands, it now takes four parties to form a government.

This isn’t wrong per se, but I would like to offer two nuances. Read more