In the week the Netherlands goes to the polls, the irruption of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan into the Dutch election has wrenched the campaign out of its somnolence. At the weekend, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and the family minister, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, came to campaign among Netherlands-based Turks for next month’s plebiscite over extending President Erdoğan’s powers. The Dutch government banned Çavuşoğlu from entering the country and, after stopping Kaya entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, kicked her out into Germany. Turkey has had a long-standing friendship with the Netherlands since Atatürk’s day. ‘Security’, that trusty standby for squelching political inconvenience, is cited as the reason for banning the ministers and their Rotterdam rally. Early on Sunday, police dispersed demonstrators with dogs and water cannon. Erdoğan has accused the Dutch government of Nazism.
Foam, Amsterdam’s photography museum, has been running a show on Disguise and Deception featuring work by Anika Schwarzelose, derived from the Tarnen und Täuschen camouflage unit of the German army. On Monday, Foam staged an associated symposium at the Marineterrein naval base.
It is more than 100 days since the Dutch general election, and the party leaders are only now coming to a final decision as to who will form the new government. But the interregnum has stretched even longer than that. The last government collapsed on 20 February, following a conflict between the two leading parties, the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Labour, over the issue of continued Dutch troop involvement in Afghanistan, and the election was called for 9 June, almost four months down the line. Since then, the Netherlands has been governed by a so-called ‘demissionary’ (demissionair) or caretaker government, with CDA ministers taking over the functions of their former Labour colleagues. This holding operation has been running for more than seven months.
In the election in the Netherlands in June, Geert Wilders’s far-right Freedom Party got 15.5 per cent of the total vote – a 10 per cent increase on its showing in 2006. It now has 24 seats out of 150 in the Dutch parliament, making Wilders an influential powerbroker. He is a state-of-the-art populist. He doesn’t need to rally a crowd: his incendiary one-liners are disseminated on the internet and recycled by the Dutch media, day after day. Everyone follows his antics, whether or not they agree with his politics. On 11 September he will be in New York protesting against the proposed construction of a mosque near Ground Zero.
Last month, the Dutch coalition government collapsed on the issue of the involvement of Dutch troops in Uruzgan. The Dutch parliament had earlier voted for the troops to be brought home by August, a policy supported by the Labour party, the second party in the coalition. The dominant Christian Democrats disagreed, and wished to accede to a US and Nato demand for a further extension of their troops’ engagement. The breach between the governing parties was unbridgeable, and the coalition broke up. This was the first Nato government to collapse over Afghanistan, and one of very few governments to have collapsed over a foreign policy dispute.