Erdogan says Turkey may hold referendum on EU accession bid
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony marking the 102nd anniversary of Battle of Canakkale, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign, in Canakkale, Turkey, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey may hold a second referendum on whether to continue with European Union accession talks following a planned vote on April 16 that could give him sweeping new powers.
“Right now we are holding a referendum on April 16 and after that we could choose to do a second one on the (EU) accession talks and we would abide by whatever our people would say there,” Erdogan told a forum in the southern city of Antalya.
Turkey began EU accession talks in 2005 but they have moved very slowly due to disagreements over Cyprus, human rights and other issues. Relations between Ankara and Brussels have become particularly strained in recent months.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Gareth Jones)
THE HAGUE — The far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in Dutch elections on Wednesday, gaining seats but failing to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union, according to early results and exit polls.
The results were immediately cheered by pro-European politicians who hoped that they could help stall some of the momentum of the populist, anti-European Union and anti-Muslim forces Mr. Wilders has come to symbolize, and which have threatened to fracture the bloc.
Voters, who turned out in record numbers, nonetheless rewarded right and center-right parties that had co-opted parts of his hard-line message, including that of the incumbent prime minister, Mark Rutte. Some parties that challenged the establishment from the left made significant gains.
The Dutch vote was closely watched as a harbinger of potential trends in a year of important European elections, including in France in just weeks, and later in Germany and possibly Italy. Many of the Dutch parties that prevailed favor the European Union — a rare glimmer of hope at a time when populist forces have created an existential crisis for the bloc and Britain prepares for its withdrawal, or “Brexit.”
“Today was a celebration of democracy, we saw rows of people queuing to cast their vote, all over the Netherlands — how long has it been since we’ve seen that?” Mr. Rutte said.
Alexander Pechtold, the leader of Democrats 66, which appeared to have won the most votes of any left-leaning party, struck a similar note underscoring the vote as a victory against a populist extremist.
“During this election campaign, the whole world was watching us,” Mr. Pechtold said. “They were looking at Europe to see if this continent would follow the call of the populists, but it has now become clear that call stopped here in the Netherlands.”
According to an unofficial tally compiled by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation, the country’s public broadcaster, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was likely to capture 33 of the 150 seats in Parliament — a loss of seven seats, but still far more than any other party.
Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom was expected to finish second, with 20 seats (an increase of eight); and the right-leaning Christian Democratic Appeal and the left-leaning Democrats 66 were tied for third, with 19 each, the broadcaster reported.
In the Netherlands, the results betrayed a lingering distrust of turning over the reins of power to the far right, even as its message dominated the campaign and was likely to influence policies in the new government.
Yet there are limits to how much the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most socially liberal countries, will be a reliable predictor for Europe’s other important elections this year, including next month’s presidential elections in France.
Mark Bovens, a political scientist at Utrecht University, noted that Mr. Wilders and other right-wing parties, despite their gains, did not drastically cross traditional thresholds.
“The nationalist parties have won seats, compared to 2012 — Wilders’s party has gained seats, as has a new party, the Forum for Democracy — but their electorate is stable, it has not grown,” Mr. Bovens said.
Mr. Bovens pointed out that an earlier populist movement led by the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn had won 26 seats in 2002, and that Mr. Wilders’s won 24 seats in 2010. If Mr. Wilders’s party rises to 20 seats, as the early returns seemed to indicate, it will still be lower than the previous high-water marks.
“And some of the traditional parties have moved in a more nationalistic direction, taking a bit of wind out of his sails,” he said. “You see the same strategy in Germany.”
The German governing coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is facing a stiff election challenge of its own this year, was clearly buoyed by the Dutch result, its foreign ministry sending a warmly enthusiastic message via Twitter.
“Large majority of Dutch voters have rejected anti-European populists. That’s good news. We need you for a strong #Europe!” it read.
In the Netherlands’s extremely fractured system of proportional representation — 28 parties ran and 13 are likely to have positions in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament — the results were, not atypically, something of a dog’s breakfast.
Mr. Rutte’s party lost seats, even as it came out on top, and will need to join forces with several others in order to wield power. Virtually all parties said they would not work with Mr. Wilders in a coalition — so toxic he remains — though his positions are likely to infuse parliamentary debate.
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“Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!” Mr. Wilders wrote on Twitter, and indeed his anti-immigrant message, which dominated much of the campaign, was not likely to go away.
It came into particularly sharp relief on the eve of the election, when Turkey’s foreign minister sought to enter the Netherlands to rally support among Turks in Rotterdam for a referendum to increase the power of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Dutch officials refused him landing rights.
Mr. Wilders, who has seemed to relish being called the “Dutch Donald Trump,” has been so extreme that some appear to have thought twice about supporting him.
He has called for banning the Quran because he compares it to Hitler’s work “Mein Kampf,” which the Netherlands banned, and for closing mosques and Islamic cultural centers and schools.
Election turnout was high, with polling places seeing a steady stream of voters from early morning until the polls closed at 9 p.m. Of the 12.9 million Dutch citizens eligible to cast ballots, more than 80 percent voted.
Some polling places ran out of ballots and called for additional ones to be delivered. There were so many candidates listed that the ballots were as voluminous as bath towels and had to be folded many times over to fit into the ballot box.
The percentage of the vote that a party receives translates into the number of seats it will get in Parliament. If a party gets 10 percent of the total votes, it gets 10 percent of seats in the 150-seat Parliament, given to its first 15 candidates listed on the ballot.
The election was a success for the left-leaning Green Party, led by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, a relative political newcomer, whose leadership at least tripled the party’s seats, making it the fifth-place finisher and potentially a part of the government.
Mr. Klaver ran specifically on an anti-populist platform and worked hard to turn out first-time voters.
“In these elections there was an overwhelming attention from the foreign press, which is understandable because Brexit happened and Trump was elected, and because France, Germany and maybe Italy will be holding elections,” Mr. Klaver said. “They asked us: Will populism break through in the Netherlands?”
The crowd shouted: “No.”
“That is the answer that we have for the whole of Europe: Populism did not break through,” Mr. Klaver said.
Another striking development was the first-time election of former Labor Party members, all three of Turkish background, who formed a new party, Denk (which means “think”). It will be the only ethnic party in the Dutch Parliament and is a reminder that Turks are the largest immigrant community in the Netherlands. There are roughly 400,000 first, second, or third-generation Turkish immigrants in the nation.
The big loser was the center-left Labor Party, which was expected to drop from being the second largest party in Parliament, with 38 seats and a position as Mr. Rutte’s coalition partner. The party was expected to win only nine seats.
In past elections the impact of extremist right-leaning parties has been largely blunted by a political system that for more than a century has resulted in governance by coalition.
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.
Updated: 12:35 PM Eastern | Originally published: 3:30 AM Eastern
(THE HAGUE, Netherlands) — Voter turnout is high in the Netherlands as the country’s parliamentary elections unfold. The vote is being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national votes in France and Germany later this year.
Research bureau Ipsos, which is conducting an exit poll, says that turnout at 1:45 p.m. (1245 GMT; 8:45 a.m. EDT) was 33 percent, up from 27 percent at the same stage in the last parliamentary election.
Major cities also were publishing turnout figures. In Amsterdam, turnout at 1 p.m. (1200 GMT; 8 a.m. EDT) was 25.1 percent, compared to 14.1 percent at the last national elections, in 2012.
In Rotterdam, around 38 percent had voted at 3 p.m. (1400 GMT; 10 a.m. EDT), compared to 30 percent at the last national elections.
National broadcaster NOS reports that extra voting booths are being added at some popular locations, such as a high-rise tower in Amsterdam.
Two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s right-wing VVD party was leading in polls ahead of the Dutch vote, with the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders a close second.
Rutte has framed the election as a choice between continuity and chaos, portraying himself as a safe custodian of this nation of 17 million’s economic recovery, while casting Wilders as a far-right radical who would not be prepared to take tough decisions were he to gain office.
The chance of Wilders becoming leader in this country where the proportional representation voting system all but guarantees coalition governments is small — all mainstream parties, including Rutte’s VVD, have ruled out working with Wilders.
Wilders’ one-page election manifesto includes pledges to de-Islamize the Netherlands by closing the borders to immigrants from Muslim nations, shuttering mosques and banning the Quran, as well as taking the Netherlands out of the European Union.
The final days of campaigning were overshadowed by a diplomatic crisis between the Dutch and Turkish governments over the refusal of the Netherlands to let two Turkish government ministers address rallies about a constitutional reform referendum next month that could give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more powers. It showed Rutte as refusing to bow to pressure from outside, a stance which has widespread backing in the nation.
“It is my task to keep the nation safe and stable and deal with these kind of people,” said Rutte.
The 12.9 million Dutch voters can cast their ballots until 9 p.m. (2000 GMT). They have plenty to choose from; there are 28 parties fielding candidates in the splintered political landscape.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the Netherlands that he could take further steps in a deepening diplomatic row, while a government spokesman in Ankara said economic sanctions could be coming.
Incensed by Dutch and German government bans on his ministers from speaking to rallies of overseas Turks, Erdogan also accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of siding with the Netherlands in the fight between the NATO allies.
Turkey suspended high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands on Monday, banning the Dutch ambassador from the country and preventing diplomatic flights from landing in Turkey or using its airspace.
Those steps were taken after Erdogan branded the Netherlands “Nazi remnants” at the weekend for muzzling his ministers.
“The cabinet took action yesterday but there are many other things that could be done against the Netherlands,” Erdogan said in a speech broadcast live on television.
“We will show those who think they can get away with an apology that they are making a mistake,” said Erdogan, who is campaigning for an April 16 referendum on boosting his powers and has been looking to the large number of Turks living in Europe to help secure victory.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus later told broadcaster CNN Turk that economic sanctions could be in the works.
“Pressure will continue against the Netherlands until they make up for what they did. We’ve started with the political, diplomatic sanctions, and economic sanctions may follow,” he said.
Erdogan has threatened to take the Netherlands to the European Court of Human Rights over the ban on his ministers, which both the Dutch and Germans have imposed citing fears of unrest.
Dutch police used dogs and water cannon on Sunday to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some protesters threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Mounted police officers charged the crowd.
SAARLAND, BELGIAN BANS
The small western German state of Saarland said on Tuesday it would ban political campaigning by foreign politicians.
“Internal Turkish conflicts have no place in Germany. Election appearances which put at risk domestic peace in our country must be banned,” State Premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a statement.
“The atmosphere that has been created by Nazi comparisons and insults must not be allowed to escalate,” she said.
The Belgian city of Antwerp said it would not allow a politician from the nationalist MHP party to speak at an event, although Ali Guler was still set to appear on Sunday at a Turkish restaurant in Genk, in the east of the country.
While Turkish law forbids election campaigning abroad and in diplomatic missions, ministers are circumventing the ban by holding what they say are cultural events with Turkish citizens.
Erdogan has said that those who oppose the referendum, are aligning themselves with terrorists. He has also accused European states, including Germany, of harboring terrorism, an allegation they deny.
EU states are also unhappy with what they see as an increasingly authoritarian tone from Turkey and the spat is likely to further dim Ankara’s prospects of EU membership.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn called on Turkey to moderate its language and avoid further escalating the dispute.
Erdogan renewed his attack on Merkel after she criticized his “Nazi remnants” jibe against the Dutch.
“The countries that have embraced this thuggery have lost all their credibility. The Chancellor of Germany has come out and said she supported the Netherlands. We know that you are no different from them,” Erdogan said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Turkish sanctions, while “not too bad”, were inappropriate as the Dutch had more to be angry about.
Ankara’s foreign ministry said the European Union was exercising democratic values selectively.
“It is very grave for the EU to hide behind member country solidarity and stand by the Netherlands, which has clearly violated human rights and European values,” it said.
(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Ece Toksabay and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Daren Butler in Istanbul; Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Madeline Chambers in Berlin and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Jon Boyle and Toby Davis)
So the Sunni Dictator Dog of Turkey, the man who has ruined the lives of his people with his hate and his ego has the gall to call the governments of Germany and the Netherlands Nazi’s. When he first took power in Turkey the country and it’s people lived in relative peace with its neighbors and within its own borders. Turkey was the crown jewel in the Middle-East of the countries that had a majority Islamic population as far as people of various religions being free to worship as they pleased. There were many Gothic Churches that were hundreds of years old that dotted the landscape of this beautiful restive country. Now by my understanding of the many different articles I have read over the past few years several of these landmark Churches have either been destroyed or turned into Sunni Mosque.
Since Er-Dog-an has been in power he has through his policies created a situation where it is rather common for the people to have to try to survive car and truck bombs as well as suicide attacks on not just Turkey’s police and military personnel but on the civilians themselves. He had created tensions with Russia and with Israel before recently correcting this error, at least publicly. I say publicly because if you honestly think that Russia’s President Putin or Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consider him a friend or that they trust him you are being quite delusional. He has spent his time in power doing mainly one thing and that is to gain more power and control over every aspect of life within the borders of Turkey. He has invaded his Shiite neighbor Syria and is not welcome in Iran or Iraq. Yet personally I believe that one of his biggest most arrogant and stupid policies has been his constant assault on the Kurdish people. The Dog has made it very plain that he wants nothing to do with peace with this huge ethnicity of people that live in the eastern part of Turkey. He could have peace with them if he wasn’t so darn greedy. The Kurdish people simply want their own homeland and being they already had settled in the eastern part of Turkey it would have been easy to have had peace with them by simply letting this small part of Turkey be officially theirs. Then the two Nations could have easily become good neighbors, brothers, sisters and trading partners. There would have been peace this way and many people who are now dead would still be alive. He has been playing the EU against Russia card trying to see how much he can get from both sides. He cared so little for his countrymen that instead of sealing off their border with Syria and not allowing millions of refugees to enter Turkey at all he let them in then has used them as bargaining chips with the EU trying to extort money and EU membership from them.
Now this egomaniac Dictator dares to call the governments of Germany and the Netherlands Nazi’s because of their policies that he personally doesn’t like. Think about this for a moment please, why is he slandering the leadership of these two countries? In Rotterdam they are going to be having elections very soon and Turkey has a huge number of Turk people living there now and there was going to be a big rally that the Turk Foreign Minister was going to address and the government decided to not let him show up. What is going on is very simple, if the Turk population grows to a high enough level they can then have more control of the laws passed in that country. If a minority population can gain control of a foreign country and they are loyalist to their home Dictator, this Dictator can have a huge effect on being the defacto Ruler of that Nation. Do not be naive, the people who believe in the teachings of ‘the prophet’ Mohammed know that they are ordered to infiltrate Infidel countries and when they have sufficient numbers to attack from within and to take control of the country and then to convert everyone there to Islam. The easiest way to take control of a Democratic country is through the ballot box, then if that doesn’t work, take it by force. Europe is starting to wake up and many of the people of Europe’s Nations are realizing the dangers they are having now and that it will only get much worse if they allow Islamic believing people to settle in their country. It is obvious why this Sunni egomaniac used the slur of Nazism toward Germany because the pain of their past but when this horse’s behind referred to the Netherlands the same way he showed his ignorance and his hate as well as pure stupidity. The worse thing that has happened to the Nation of Turkey since world war two has been allowing this madman to continue breathing within their borders. I say this because as he proves constantly like this upcoming referendum to give him alone even more power to rule as a King or a god would, he is only interested in making as many people as possible bow to his power, even Nations outside of Turkey’s current borders. If the EU Leaders in Brussels ever allow Turkey or any Islamic Nation to become part of the EU, that will be the kiss of death for their Countries and their way of life, and their very lives.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who last July said white Christians have contributed more to Western civilization than any other “subgroup,” on Sunday found himself again the subject of criticism, this time for saying that Muslim children are preventing “our civilization” from being restored.
King, who was retweeting a message endorsing Geert Wilders, a far-right candidate for Dutch prime minister, said Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Turkey’s president: ‘Nazism is alive in the West’
The original tweet, from the anti-European Union Voice of Europe, media organization, displays a cartoon with an image of Wilders plugging a hole in a wall labeled “Western Civilization.” Nearby, bearded protesters hold signs that say, “Infidels, Know Your Limits” and “Freedom of Speech Go To Hell.”
The caption reads: “Hundreds of Islamists shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Wilders is right for over 10 years.”
King was on the receiving end of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum.
Conservative columnist Bill Kristol tweeted, “Is it worth making the obvious point that what American history has been about is ‘restoring’ ourselves with ‘somebody else’s babies?'”
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean called King “a total ignoramus and no one takes him seriously. He does give off good quotes to outrage people though.”
In a pair of tweets endorsing King’s tweet, former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke said that if Americans were considering moving, “sanity reigns supreme in Iowa’s 4th congressional district,” in the state’s northwest area, which King represents.
The Washington Post last month noted that while just 64% of the U.S. population is white and non-Hispanic, nearly 89% of Iowa’s population describe themselves that way.
King has often made provocative comments about “civilization” and what he perceives as a declining role in its development for white Christians.
Meeting last September with Wilders and another anti-immigrant politician, Frauke Petry of Germany, King tweeted a photo with the caption, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.”
During the Republican National Convention in July, King created an uproar by asserting that white people have contributed more to the advancement of human civilization than any other “sub-group of people.”
Steve King creates uproar with salute to contributions of white people
Last September, King spoke out against silent protests by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, calling them “activism that’s sympathetic to ISIS.”
The often strident Wilders is sometimes referred to as the “Dutch Trump.” He earned the nickname not just for his love of extreme comments — he has tweeted about “left wing elitist losers,” among others — but also for explicit anti-Muslim views. Wilders has called for the Koran to be banned, and his party’s platform calls for prohibiting new mosques, which he compares to “Nazi Temples.” He has also proposed closing Dutch borders and making “the Netherlands ours again,” The Post reported.
Cavusoglu was due to address Turkish expatriates in Rotterdam to win support for an April 16 referendum vote on the Turkish Constitution.
Pushed by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, these sweeping constitutional changes would grant new powers to Turkey’s President and transform the way the country is governed.
Erdogan: Germany using ‘Nazi practices’
Turkish politicians have sought to address rallies in European cities and towns with large populations of Turkish expatriates, but the authorities in several countries have blocked their plans.
Around 1.5 million Turkish nationals living in Germany are eligible to vote in the referendum, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu.
In the latest twist in the row, Cavusoglu angered the Dutch by threatening “severe sanctions” if he were banned from traveling to the Rotterdam rally.
“If the Netherlands cancels my flight, we will impose severe sanctions on them that will affect it economically and politically,” the foreign minister said in remarks in a TV interview on CNN Turk.
He added, “If tension will increase (between the two countries) because of my visit, then let it increase.”
Dutch leader Mark Rutte says Turkish threats of sanctions made a “reasonable solution” impossible.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Many Dutch people with Turkish heritage are voting in the referendum on the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government has no objection to meetings in our country in order to inform them about that.
“But these meetings cannot contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to contribute to an event must comply with instructions from the authorities so that public order and security can be guaranteed. It should be noted that, in this respect, the Turkish government does not want to respect those rules.”
Rutte said there had been discussions with the Turkish authorities to try to find a way to hold a smaller-scale meeting in a Turkish Consulate or Embassy.
However, he said, a public threat of sanctions made by the Turks before the negotiations were complete made it impossible to find a “reasonable solution” — so the Netherlands banned the foreign minister’s flight.
The Dutch will vote Wednesday in national elections in a campaign that has focused heavily on the issue of immigration from Muslim countries.
Far-right presidential candidate Geert Wilders praised the decision to bar the Turkish minister from speaking in Rotterdam, taking credit due to the influence of his party, the Party For Freedom, or PVV.
“Great! Thanks to heavy PVV- pressure a few days before the Dutch elections our government did NOT allow the Turkish minister to land here,” Wilders wrote.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch charge d’affaires Saturday following the decision to bar Cavusoglu’s flight.
CNN’s Schams Elwazer, Isil Sariyuce and Mick Krever also contributed to this report.
Erdogan compares German cancellation of meetings with Nazi period
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a symposium on presidential system in Istanbul, Turkey, February 11, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday German actions in stopping political meetings of resident Turks that were due to be addressed by Turkish officials “were no different to those of the Nazi period”.
German authorities withdrew permission for two meetings in German cities last week that were part of a government campaign to win the 1.5 million-strong Turkish community’s support for sweeping new powers for Erdogan going to referendum in April.
“Germany, you have no relation whatsoever to democracy and you should know that your current actions are no different to those of Nazi period. When we say that, they get disturbed. Why are you disturbed?” he said at a rally in Istanbul.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; writing by Ralph Boulton; editing by Louise Heavens)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
Iran allowing Syria-bound Russian planes to use airspace-report
A still image, taken from video footage and released by Russia’s Defence Ministry on August 18, 2016, shows a Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range bomber landing at an air base near the Iranian city of Hamadan. Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS TV
Iran has again allowed Russian planes to use its airspace during recent operations in Syria, a senior Iranian security official was quoted as saying on Saturday.
In August, Russian aircraft for the first time used an Iranian air base to conduct strikes in Syria. The Russian military said its fighters had completed their tasks, but left open the possibility of using the Hamadan base again if circumstances warranted.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said then that Russia had stopped using the base for strikes in Syria, bringing an abrupt halt to the deployment that was criticized both by the United States and some Iranian lawmakers.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, on Saturday told the semi-official news agency Fars: “Their (Russians’) use of Iran’s air space has continued because we have a fully strategic cooperation with Russia.”
“In the recent cases, Russian fighter planes have only used Iran’s airspace and have not had refueling operations,” Shamkhani added.
The agency said Shamkhani was commenting on media reports that Russia’s Tupolev-22M long-range bombers had used Iranian airspace and a base in the country on their missions in Syria, where both Tehran and Moscow back President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
It was not immediately clear if the recent missions were linked to Russian air strikes on Thursday that accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers during an operation against Islamic State in Syria, according to the Turkish military.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)
A new rift in world affairs appears to be opening up: a division between pro-globalization Asia, with China in the lead, and the transatlantic nations that have turned against globalization.
“President Xi’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week,” I write in a blog post this week, “comes at both an auspicious and inauspicious moment. It is an auspicious moment because President-elect Donald Trump has all but announced America’s withdrawal from the world it has largely made over recent decades — and from which Asia has most benefited.” Since Europe has become inwardly absorbed with anxieties over terror attacks, immigration and failed integration, I continue, “that leaves China as the one major power with a global outlook. Ready or not, China has become the de facto world leader seeking to maintain an open global economy and battle climate change. In effect, President Xi has become the ‘core leader’ of globalization.”
“The inauspicious aspect is the reverse,” I go on to say. “The general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party is speaking to the converted from the pulpit in the foremost church of the global elite that gathers annually in Davos. Aligning with the global business elites in such a high profile manner places China even more squarely in the negative sights of the populist wave sweeping the Western democracies. It affirms in their minds that China is the main enemy of the working and middle class in the West.” China’s increasing show of force in the South China Sea this week in response to what it sees as provocations by the incoming U.S. administration also does it little favor in Western eyes.
Alexis Crow makes the counter-case that globalization continues to be beneficial to the West, saying trade is closely correlated with economic growth. “Increased wages in Southeast Asia boost demand for goods from new economy sectors in the West,” she writes. She also notes, as a case in point, how Chinese investment is creating thousands of jobs in Ohio.
Writing from Vladivostok, Artyom Lukin wonders how heightening conflict with China, as Trump tilts toward a closer embrace of Moscow, will play out. “Given Trump’s obvious hostility to China and his friendliness to Russia,” he writes, “Moscow may move into the apex spot of the triangle, having better relations with Beijing and Washington than they have with each other.” As Lukin sees it, Russian President Vladimir Putin may well seek to, “position himself as a sort of mediator between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.”
Based on his experiences with Putin, Alexey Kovalev offers some advice as a Russian journalist to his American colleagues who this week faced their first press conference with Donald Trump. “Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him.” He welcomes his American colleagues to “the era of bullshit.” Fearing this is only the beginning of what’s to come in the battle between Trump and the press, Howard Fineman writes, “It’s not a video game. It’s Washington in the Trump era, and we’ve just seen an unsettling preview.”
Many Africans are also wondering how a Trump presidency that is hostile to China will unfold for them. As Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden report, while America’s role in the world is growing uncertain, China is becoming more predictably favorable. As the year opened, China outlawed its domestic ivory trade and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is making a visit to Africa his first overseas trip of the year. China has also committed $60 billion in financing for African projects.
Writing from Singapore, Parag Khanna takes another tack entirely, suggesting that an America caught up in the turmoil of a populist backlash might learn a thing or two not only from other successful states like Germany, but from China as well. America, Khanna observes, “is caught in a hapless cycle of flip-flopping parties and policies while overall national welfare stagnates. Populism has prevailed over pragmatism.” He further remarks that, even in the West, there is grudging admiration for, “China’s ability to get things done without perpetual factionalism holding up national priorities, such as infrastructure.”
The populist drift in both the U.S. and Europe deeply concerns the Human Rights Watch organization, Nick Visser reports. “They scapegoat refugees, immigrant communities, and minorities. Truth is a frequent casualty,” he cites the watchdog’s director, Kenneth Roth, as saying. Nick Robins-Early looks at the trend of populism in Europe, noting that this year will be a test for the far-right, specifically in France, Germany and The Netherlands.
Writing from New Delhi, Swati Chaturvedi fears the consequences of the anti-Muslim and anti-woman hate speech that seems part and parcel of a Hindu brand of populism taking hold in India today. “Trolls,” she says, “are the goons of the online world. … lies and violent words can have deadly consequences in the real world.”
In an interview, former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr sees opportunity for the regime in a Trump presidency where others see only trouble. “Khamenei’s supporters believe not only that Trump will maintain the Vienna nuclear agreement,” he says, “but also that his policies in Syria and the Middle East will maintain the interests of the regime.”
Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also has a positive spin on the negativity surrounding President-elect Trump. He thinks Americans are more than capable of rising to disruptive challenges of new technologies behind so much political anxiety today. Wheeler argues that the slogan “‘Make America Great Again’ became a surrogate for ‘Make me secure again amidst all this change.’ Great swaths of the electorate sought stability in a world where everything seemed to be changing.” Wheeler reminds his fellow Americans that they’ve been here before: “Like today,” he says, “the technology revolution of the 19th century produced a longing for stability. But instead of retreating, Americans pushed forward to build a new security around new concepts. Universal education, employee rights, governmental offsets to abusive market power and other initiatives targeted the new problems. The result was the good old days many now long for.”
Writing from Geneva, Richard Baldwin sees a double blow to the labor market – in both rich and poor countries ― of both offshoring and robots. “Rapid advances in computing power and communication technology,” he contends, “will make it economical for many more people to work remotely across borders.” As medical costs rise in the rich countries, for example, Baldwin expects to see more and more “telesurgery” where the patient and doctor are divided by hundreds of miles.
In this world so afflicted by hatred and violence, Turkish novelist Kaya Genc also sees a way to unite amidst division, finding beauty and peace in the quotidian event of a winter snowfall. “Snow saved Istanbul,” he writes this week from his beloved hometown on the shores of the Bosphorous. “As flakes fell from the sky, the city was relieved of its status as the new destination of international terror. … There was a hint of something chilling in the air, and I felt relieved that it was not man-made.”
truthtroubles.wordpress.com/ Just an average man who tries to do his best at being the kind of person the Bible tells us we are all suppose to be. Not perfect, never have been, don't expect anyone else to be perfect either. Always try to be very easy going type of a person if allowed to be.