Canadian Elections: Trudeau Holds On

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I haven’t talked much about our friends to the north in this blog, but tonight I’d like to make an exception. Canadian news media is now projecting that Justin Trudeau will remain as Canada’s prime minister, and the Liberal Party will remain in power as the results of the Canadian Federal Election come in. Polls taken in the days before the election suggested the elections would be close and Conservatives, with their leader Andrew Sheer, might be able to assume control of the government. As it stands right now, that doesn’t appear likely to happen.

Trudeau is safe, although its not yet clear if Liberals will form a minority or majority government. Again, as it stands right now, a minority government seems more likely. This scenario will leave Trudeau in a far weaker position, and needing the support of other left-leaning political parties to push legislation through. When the election results become more concrete, a better picture of the current political situation in Canada will develop.

However it goes, this election will have little effect on Canada’s geopolitical stature. Truth be told, the Trudeau government’s actions abroad have resulted in a minimal net gain for Canada, except for a handful of good soundbites.

Perhaps later in the week, as it becomes clear what direction the new Canadian government will be going in, I’ll look at the future of Canada’s military, and geopolitical agendas.

Elections in Turkey Bring About a Setback for Erdogan

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suffered a major setback at the polls. The results of Sunday’s municipal balloting indicate the candidate of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has won the mayoral election in Ankara, Turkey’s capital. The mayoral race in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest and most famous city, appears as if it will be won by the opposition candidate. It has yet to be officially decided, but as of this morning, CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu was ahead by a thin margin.

For Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) the results were a major blow. Although AKP candidates won 51% of the municipal elections across the nation, it wasn’t enough for him to declare the results a victory. If the Istanbul race is officially called for Imamoglu, it will be a catastrophe for Erdogan and AKP.

Going into Sunday, the elections were regarded as a barometer for Erdogan’s. He’d campaigned endlessly, calling the vote a matter of “national survival.” In a sense, his words ring true. The Turkish economy has been mired in a recession and the lira has required constant propping up. The nation is also engaged militarily in Syria and despite growing involvement there, and the returns have been less than Erdogan was hoping for.

The election results could be a turning point for the opposition which has been relegated to the shadows in recent years. With Erdogan and his party controlling much of the nation’s media outlets, CHP and other parties opposing Erdogan have not had the ability to spread their message far and wide. With Ankara, and perhaps Istanbul about to be led by CHP candidates, that could be about to change.

Of course, economic performance motivates people to vote more often than not. Right now, with Turkey’s economy looking shaky, it bodes well for the opposition, and less so for Erdogan and AKP.

George Soros Warns the European Union

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George Soros issued a frank warning in an op-ed piece  published yesterday. The billionaire activist, and financial supporter of leftwing  progressive political causes around the world, urged Europeans to “please wake up” and recognize the internal and external threats facing the European Union. He compared the situation facing the EU today to the Soviet Union in 1991. The supra-national organization is facing a revolutionary moment that could pave the way to an uncertain future. Sadly, Soros points out, Europe’s leaders, and citizens seem not to recognize the dangerous territory which the EU is entering.

For a politically-involved wealthy private citizen to be publicly sounding the general alarm, it speaks volumes on the present state of the EU. Soros has long been a staunch supporter of the European experiment. However, unlike  many officials in Brussels, the Hungarian billionaire is also a realist.  The messy Brexit situation, unrest in France, Angela Merkel’s declining influence, and of course, the continuing rise of  populism, and nationalism have come together to form a perfect storm. Soros is obviously hoping his words will motivate Europhiles to take action before it is too late. Yet even he suggests it possible that the union is past the point of rescue.

European Parliament elections are coming in May. Soros is hoping his call will rally the EU and its supporters before then, and perhaps prevent the anticipated antiestablishment surge from becoming a reality. Fears of what the upcoming elections could bring are already circulating around the continent, and many view the May election as being a referendum on the entire 60-year old European Union experiment. There is a very real chance that anti-EU parties can win enough seats to severely disrupt legislative affairs. If Britain is still an EU member come May, it will send representatives to the European Parliament. An awkward scenario at best, a potential political storm at worst.

How the Soros warning is digested will become known as May draws nearer. Can his words rally EU leaders, and supporters in time, or is the European Union destined to meet the same fate as the Soviet Union?

Wednesday 15 March, 2017 Update: Polls Have Opened in the Netherlands

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It is 0245 here in the eastern United States and 0745 in the Netherlands. The polls there opened fifteen minutes ago and will remain open for the next nine hours as Dutch voters go to the polls. At stake are the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. The elections in the Netherlands have garnered much attention in the last week or so thanks to the diplomatic crisis between the Dutch and Turkish governments, however, there are other factors responsible for the recent surge of interest.

Many in the media, as well as a sizeable fraction of political observers are looking upon the Dutch parliamentary elections as a prime indicator of the direction European politics will be taking for the next five to seven years. The overall consensus is that these elections will serve as a litmus test for European populism, though the pundits and analysts who claim this seem to have forgotten the results of earlier litmus tests on the continent like Brexit, and the Italian referendum, as two examples. Populism has become a force to be reckoned with in Europe already, having challenged or defeated the embattled status quo in a number of EU nations already. The media, and European Union supporters especially seem to be locked in denial on this. Their positions and reactions to Europe’s political shift to the right is strikingly similar to those of Democrats and the media here in the United States during the 2016 Primaries. As then-candidate Donald Trump racked up victory after victory it became apparent he was ushering in a new populist era of American politics. The warning signs were everywhere and anyone who could read the political tea leaves objectively understood that something major was happening in US politics at the time. His opponents, the media, and the political establishment responded in large part by burying their heads in the sand and waiting patiently for the ‘Trump Phenomenon’ to burn itself out. To their surprise and horror it did not happen. On 9 November, 2016, they awoke to find their greatest nightmare had become reality: President-elect Donald Trump.

Geert Wilders is in many regards the Dutch Donald Trump. His Party for Freedom (PPV) is a right-wing movement expressing a message expressed on a foundation of nativism, and populism. Wilders argues that political elites in the Netherlands have lost touch what issues regular people consider to be of the most importance. The political and cosmopolitan elites promotion of internationalism undermines the nation’s identity. He points to the fallout from the European refugee crisis as proof of this. How Wilder and his party perform in the elections today could give a hint about how similar candidates will fare in the French and German elections later in the year.

Or it may not. The ongoing spat with Turkey could serve as a Dutch ‘October Surprise.’ It has the potential to siphon votes away from the incumbent parties and motivate more people to cast their ballots for the PPV and other anti-establishment parties. In nine hours or so we will see whether or not this is the case.