‘tulip crisis’ how domestic elections are at the root of the turkeynetherlands row
Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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Last Updated : GMT 05:17:37
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‘Tulip Crisis’: How domestic elections are at the root of the Turkey-Netherlands row

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Emiratesvoice, emirates voice ‘Tulip Crisis’: How domestic elections are at the root of the Turkey-Netherlands row

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte (left) and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Istanbul - Arab Today

It has been dubbed the "Tulip Crisis": a noisy, toxic, and (to the uninitiated) faintly absurd row between Ankara and The Hague over the latter’s refusal to allow Turkish officials to campaign in the Netherlands ahead of an upcoming referendum in Turkey.
Turkish leaders have accused their Dutch counterparts of breaching diplomatic protocol, Islamophobia, and Nazism after one government minister was ejected from the country and another barred from speaking at a rally in Rotterdam.
On Saturday, foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu used the tulip – exported from Turkey to the Netherlands in the 16th Century and beloved in both countries – to have a dig at his Dutch adversaries.
"Tulips were sent to the Netherlands during the time of the Ottoman Empire," he said. "It seems those tulips couldn’t make the racist politicians of the Netherlands into men. If it helps, we can send them new tulips so they can grow into men."
The debacle hinges on a more recent Turkish export, however: the large population of passport-holding Turks who have become a focus for xenophobic populism in both countries, as each prepares to head to the polls.
The result of Turkey’s referendum – called by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a bid to enhance his own authority by abolishing the office of prime minister and curtailing the powers of parliament – hangs in the balance, with recent polls suggesting voters are evenly split on the reforms.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands’ general election on Wednesday, the political establishment is facing a challenge from far-right anti-Muslim firebrand Geert Wilders.
In Turkey, Mr Erdogan has long traded on his image as an underdog fighting against undemocratic and oppressive elites on behalf of the national will.
Having defeated his numerous domestic enemies and imposed his authoritarian rule at home, this image has come to rely heavily on the spectre of an Islamophobic and meddlesome West supposedly intent on thwarting Turkey’s rise as a world power.
The current crisis fits neatly into that narrative, allowing Mr Erdogan’s "Yes" campaign to portray itself as threatened and embattled, although it is in fact the president’s domestic opponents who are living in fear and facing persecution.
In the Netherlands, meanwhile, pressure from the far-right, anti-immigration movement of Mr Wilders has pushed the Dutch government into acting as a foil for Mr Erdogan.
Prime minister Mark Rutte has taken an increasingly hard line on immigration and integration, telling immigrants to "act normal or go away" in an open letter in January. In a snap poll published on Sunday by Peil.nl, 86 per cent of 2,000 respondents approved of his uncompromising handling of the row with Turkey.
The crisis appears set to deal yet further damage to Turkey’s tense relationship with the European Union, with fellow EU countries largely backing the Dutch stance and condemning Turkey’s harsh rhetoric.
While Turkey as a nation stands to gain little from ratcheting up already tense relations with its largest trading partner, the debacle may prove a game-changer for Mr Erdogan’s referendum hopes.
Turkey’s European expatriates may be particularly influenced. Some 4.6 million Turkish citizens live in western Europe, a significant block of voters that political parties have courted with growing vigour in recent elections.
The Netherlands has the third highest voting Turkish population after Germany and France, with more than 240,000 eligible voters. At the last general election in November 2015, these voters tilted heavily in favour of Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won 65.4 per cent of the Turkish vote in the Netherlands.
In Turkey itself, however, voters’ interest in the debacle may be eclipsed by more pressing matters, including an ailing economy, resentment against a large Syrian refugee population, and unease over Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Support from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), whose leader, Devlet Bahceli, has backed Mr Erdogan’s plan, may prove crucial to the government’s hopes.
At a cafe in Istanbul this week, a group of the party’s supporters were uninterested in Turkey’s latest confrontation with its European neighbours.
"You need to be flexible, even if you’re the prime minister or president. You can’t be that stubborn when it comes to diplomacy," said one grey-haired bespectacled man, briskly dismissing the Dutch crisis before moving onto his fears regarding Turkey’s economic prospects.
"Bahceli might say ‘yes’ in the referendum, but the base of supporters who put him there will say ‘no’," he added, making the nationalist ‘grey wolf’ hand sign – a fist with the little finger and index finger extended, to demonstrate his support for the MHP.


Source: The National

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