The Dutch public go to the polls tomorrow, and the question of Turkey is on the menu. This past weekend the Dutch government forbade a plane containing the Turkish Foreign minister from landing in the country. The Turkish minister had been due to address a crowd in Rotterdam. Another Turkish minister – the hijabi Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, due to attend a similar rally – was prevented from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. All of which led the Turkish government to dismiss the Dutch people (and then the Germans as well) as ‘Nazis’. Last night, Turkey then banned the Dutch ambassador from returning to Ankara. Of course none of this frenetic Turkish political activity is about the Dutch election, but rather about the upcoming ‘vote’ in Turkey over whether to allow President (former Prime Minister) Erdogan the full powers of a Caliph.
If any good is to come from it, perhaps this episode will alert more Europeans to the election pit-stops that are now commonplace for Turkish politicians. That and the unequal Turkey-EU bargain. For all the while that Europeans have told ourselves that the moment you come into Europe you become as European as your most European neighbour, the Islamists of the Erdogan era have pursued a different line of reasoning. As Erdogan himself said before a crowd of thousands of Turkish immigrants to Germany in 2011, the millions of Turks in Europe must do anything but assimilate. This has been a constant of Turkish government policy: Turks in Europe are Turks. But Europeans – wherever they are – are Nazis and you mustn’t join them.
Since the weekend’s Dutch clampdown, the German, Swiss and Austrian authorities have joined the Netherlands in banning the putative Caliph’s rallies in their countries. Only France seems to be allowing such événements to continue. There were riots in Rotterdam at the weekend, and the Dutch foreign ministry has now warned Dutch travellers in Turkey to be careful during this period of heightened ‘diplomatic tensions’.
I suppose the inevitable question is who might benefit from all this in Wednesday’s elections? And the interesting thing is that it could go either way. It could be that the Dutch public admire the tough stance of Mark Rutte’s government and decide that the Dutch mainstream is indeed up to the challenges that mass immigration from Turkey and other Muslim majority countries has brought to their country. Or they might take another route. After all, the reason why Geert Wilders broke from Rutte’s VVD thirteen years ago was because the VVD believed – and continued to push the idea – that Turkey should join the EU. Wilders alone – at the time – pointed out that the idea of pushing for Turkey to join the EU was continentally and civilisation-ally absolutely nuts. Despite that walkout, the VVD – like the Conservative party in the UK – continued (and continues) to believe that Turkish membership of the EU is a terrific idea and much to be pushed for.
So here is the Dutch public’s choice in a nutshell. A political mainstream that keeps proving itself to be grudgingly right. Or an outsider who can present himself as having been right from the start. Unlike in Turkey, in the Netherlands it’ll genuinely be up to the people to decide.