Dutch Election: Political System Shatters

Dutch Election: Political System Shatters

Carl Court/Getty Images

Geert Wilders didn’t lose. Instead, he’s part of a dangerous trend sweeping Europe.

Yesterday morning, news of Geert Wilders’s epic defeat filled the headlines. Bloomberg: “Dutch Liberals Defeat Wilders’s Party in Blow to Populist Surge.” Daily Mail: “Far-Right Dutch M.P. Geert Wilders FAILS to Make Inroads in General Election.” The Telegraph: “Netherlands Rejects Far Right.”

Welcome to 2017 Europe, where it is a major defeat for a far-right party (or at least one frequently labeled far right) to come second. Wilders’s Party for Freedom (pvv) increased its number of seats from 15 to 20. The media responded with relief that it didn’t do even better. The fact that it was even thinkable for the Party for Freedom to actually win the election shows how far European politics have shifted over the last decade.

The reason Wilders didn’t win seems to be that so many other candidates copied his rhetoric. The last-minute surge in support for Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (vvd) comes largely because Rutte took a tough line against Turkey over the weekend.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated rapidly, with the Netherlands banning Turkish ministers and the Turks smuggling decoy ministers across the border from Germany, culminating in Turkey deporting dozens of Dutch cows.

Throughout it all, Rutte refused to back down or apologize and was rewarded by his “victory”—winning the most seats in the new Parliament but still down eight seats compared to the last election.

Rutte isn’t the only one who has found his inner Wilders. Wilders set the agenda for the whole election. James Traub wrote for Foreign Policy:

In the weeks leading up to the vote, the Dutch have been preoccupied, almost obsessed, with issues of immigration, integration and national identity. Overschie is a largely white enclave in a city that, like most major urban centers in the Netherlands, consists about equally of immigrants and native Dutch, and everyone I spoke to in the Boulevard agreed with some part of Wilders’s nativist agenda. …

He has so thoroughly reshaped Dutch political culture that voters who share his views, but find him ultra vires, can now vote for any number of parties that have taken a hard-line on immigrants and on Islam, including the vvd itself. This is Europe’s politics in 2017; the center holds, but only by giving ground to the nationalist right.

This shift has left the political system shattered.

The Dutch Labour Party saw its vote collapse from 38 seats to just nine. Now, Dutch politics is dominated by a range of smaller parties with similar numbers of seats. Since the Dutch choose not just the party but the actual individual they want to represent them in parliament, and because so many parties ran this year, the election required a gigantic ballot paper.

Wilders’s pvv, the Christian Democratic Appeal, and the Democracy Party all won around 19 seats. The Green Left and the Socialist Party both won 14. In 2012, nearly 65 percent of the vote went to the top three parties. This time, they won only 47 percent.

This is going to make coalition negotiations awkward and governments unstable. The next government will need at least four parties to have a majority. The New York Times wrote:

This year’s election may give the Netherlands its most fragmented government in history. Some political analysts believe it could take weeks or months to form a government and that the governing coalition will be fragile.

In Belgium, which has a similar political system as the Netherlands, it famously took nearly a year and a half after inconclusive elections in June 2010 to form a government.

This rise of fringe parties has played out across Europe. It also closely follows the trends of the 1930s. Unfortunately, it quickly forms a feedback loop. The rise of fringe parties deprives traditional parties of their usual votes. As traditional coalitions stop working, governments become complicated left-right coalitions as the mainstream unites to keep out the fringe. This convinces more people that the mainstream doesn’t work, and support for the fringe grows.

This week’s election in the Netherlands provides further proof that European politics are entering dangerous territory. In different ways, the people are concluding that politics as usual isn’t working and are turning to outsiders like Geert Wilders.

In one country, this would not be a big deal. But it is the current situation in almost every European country. Massive political upheaval occurring in so many nations at the same time is going to have a major effect on world news. For where this shift is leading, read “Democracy Is Dying.”

Trump’s War Against the Media—Not as Ruthless as Obama’s

Trump’s War Against the Media—Not as Ruthless as Obama’s

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The major media in America view President Donald Trump as enemy number one, but Mr. Trump’s war with the media isn’t close to what Barack Obama’s was.

Listen to the March 16 Trumpet Daily Radio Show.

The major media in America view President Donald Trump as enemy number one, but Mr. Trump’s war with the media isn’t close to what Barack Obama’s was. Under Obama, right-wing journalists faced prosecution, were labeled as coconspirators, and even faced jail time. On this Trumpet Daily Radio Show, we take a look back at Obama’s war against the media and show how it reshaped America.

Stream or download Trumpet Daily Radio Show at:

http://app.stitcher.com/browse/feed/68064/details

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/trumpet-daily-radio-show/id1003885427

http://kpcg.fm/shows/trumpet-daily-radio-show

Discussion: Scotland’s Referendum and the End of Britain

Trumpet

Trumpet analysts Brad Macdonald and Richard Palmer discuss the new Scottish referendum.

Japan to Dispatch Largest Warship in Boldest Show of Military Force Since World War II

Japan to Dispatch Largest Warship in Boldest Show of Military Force Since World War II

KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

The tension over the disputed territory in the South China Sea is about to escalate to another level.

Japanese authorities said on March 14 that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will dispatch its largest warship, the Izumo helicopter carrier, on a three-month tour through the South China Sea. The move represents Japan’s largest show of military force since World War ii and marks a major step in Tokyo’s march toward remilitarization.

China claims nearly all of the vast, resource-rich South China Sea, through which one third of the world’s maritime trade passes. Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim portions of the sea. Chinese island-building and vessel movement in the region have posed a major challenge to the rules-based global order and have prompted the United States to conduct frequent naval and air patrols to ensure freedom of navigation.

Japan has no claims to the South China Sea, but it is entangled in separate territorial disputes with China over parts of the East China Sea. The decision to dispatch the 817-foot Izumo shows that Tokyo supports the tougher stance that the U.S. is taking toward China under President Donald Trump. The dispatch also suggests that Japan may seek to establish its own military presence in the South China Sea.

The Izumo can carry up to 400 marines and 14 attack helicopters. It is scheduled to sail from Japan in May, stopping in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before arriving in the Indian Ocean for joint naval drills between the United States and India. ZeroHedge said that Japan dispatching the warship means that “tension over the disputed territory in the South China Sea is about to escalate to another level.”

At the end of World War ii, U.S.-occupied Japan was given a constitution that outlawed war as a means for Japan to settle international disputes. Article 9 states: “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. … [L]and, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

That constitution has governed Japanese affairs in the 70 years since, but Japanese leaders have quietly moved away from pacifism and toward remilitarization, especially under the current prime minister, Shinzō Abe. Dispatching the Izumo represents the latest and one of the boldest moves away from Article 9 and toward an assertive military.

Since Japan’s constitution bans the country from acquiring offensive weapons, Tokyo labels the $1.2 billion Izumo as a destroyer, a class of vessel with largely defensive weapons systems that typically cannot project power in an offensive manner. But this is illusive designation.

The Center for International Maritime Security (cimsec) says that the cutting-edge Izumo is “in a category similar to that of the Invincible-class carriers commissioned by the Royal Navy. … Equipped with the latest in electronic warfare, fire control and radar systems, the Izumo class has been designed with the battlefield of the 21st century in mind.”

The vessel is also equipped with Phalanx and SeaRam close-in weapons systems, which are able to counter nearly all types of inbound ordnance. cimsec says the scale and weaponry of the Izumo “represents a major advance in Japan’s maritime defense capabilities, significantly increasing the country’s ability to project force.”

cimsec’s analysis concludes:

Given this potential, simply calling these ships “helicopter destroyers” could be construed as misleading, or even deceptive. Therefore, we can surmise that the classification is largely for political purposes, as the inherently offensive capability of aircraft carriers would run counter to the values espoused in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Whether the [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces] decides to further develop the capability of these ships has yet to be seen; however, the potential is there and serves as a warning to China and [North Korea] that Japan is indeed a maritime power to be reckoned with.

Japan dispatching the Izumo to the South China Sea marks a major step in Tokyo’s march toward remilitarization and is likely to intensify China’s aggression in the region. To understand the vital significance of this trend, read “Why We Watch Japan’s March Toward Militarism.”

Silly Dove: As Britain Negotiates EU Exit, the SNP Calls for Scottish Independence

Silly Dove: As Britain Negotiates EU Exit, the SNP Calls for Scottish Independence

BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

While Britain sorts out its EU departure it also faces the question of its very existence, again. 

Listen to the March 15 Trumpet Daily Radio Show.

The two-year procedure for Britain exiting the European Union commenced this week as the bill triggering Article 50 cleared its final hurdle in Parliament. Coinciding with this, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced legal proceedings for another independence referendum, which she says should be held before Britain finishes leaving the EU. Now Britain has to sort out its EU Brexit at the same time it again faces a challenge to its own existence as a United Kingdom. On today’s Trumpet Daily Radio Show, we look at where Britain’s internal division will lead.

Stream or download Trumpet Daily Radio Show at:

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Iran Plans to Take the Golan Heights

Iran Plans to Take the Golan Heights

iStock.com/Tal Guterman

With the Syrian civil war in hand, Iran is setting its sights on a bigger goal.

The Iranian-backed Shiite militia Harakat al-Nujaba announced last week the formation of the Golan Liberation Brigade. The goal of this group is to reclaim territory taken by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and to prepare to attack Israel.

“Should the Syrian government make the request, we are ready to participate in the liberation of occupied Golan with our allies,” said a spokesman for Harakat al-Nujaba. “We will not permit the soil of Arab countries to remain in the grasps of occupiers.”

While perhaps not a household name, Harakat al-Nujaba—translated Movement of the Noble—claims to have 10,000 fighters in Syria. The group played an important role reinforcing Hezbollah in the battle for Aleppo. The Golan Liberation Brigade’s first priority is to take Syrian territory in the border region from the anti-Assad rebels.

The formation of the Golan Liberation Brigade sheds light on perhaps the key reason for Iran’s involvement in Syria. Iran isn’t in Syria merely to support an ally; it’s in Syria to establish and maintain a position to attack the Jewish state.

Iran has been embedding itself on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights for some months. In July 2016, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (irgc) Basij paramilitary group publicized that it was inspecting the regions along the Syria-Israel border. A year before that, in the same area, irgc Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ali Allahdadi was killed in an Israeli air strike.

So far Israel has had to deal with only the occasional potshot from Syrian rebels. The area of Daraa, situated near the Israeli border, is considered by some to be the birthplace of the Syrian revolution. Meanwhile, Iran and the Syrian government say that the presence of anti-government rebels in the area provides justification for entrenching Iranian-backed, pro-Assad forces so close to Israel’s border.

Iran’s final objective in the Middle East is not to control Syria, but to destroy Israel. Together with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, the formation of the Golan Liberation Brigade increases Iran’s ability to achieve that goal.

The most precious jewel of Iran’s plan is to conquer Jerusalem,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in The King of the South. “This would then galvanize the Islamic world behind Iran!”

Israel is at the heart of Iran’s plans for the Middle East. In many respects, Iran’s involvement in Syria pivots on this issue. If Bashar Assad is defeated, Tehran risks losing one of its most important strategic footholds. For Iran, the ultimate goal is destroying the Jewish state. To this end, Iran backs Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and it is working to forge a new relationship with Egypt.

“I believe Jerusalem is more important to Iran than the oil is,” Mr. Flurry wrote in The King of the South. “The Islamic people have fought the Catholic Crusades for about 1,500 years over control of Jerusalem. Bible prophecy says one final crusade is about to erupt.”

The Trumpet has said for years that Iran will not retain control of Syria. But shifting its focus to Israel now that the rebels are on the back foot exposes Iran’s focus in the region—a focus that it will retain no matter what territories it controls. For more on Iran’s focus on taking Israel, read “The Precious Jewel of Iran’s Plan.”