We’re getting older. The proportion of the world’s population over the age of 60 is projected to more than double between 2015 and 2050, according to the World Health Organisation. And in politics, just as in life, things are changing to adapt to the shifting demographics.
Henk Krol, a 68-year-old ex-journalist and former member of the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (vvd) – a centre-right group – knows that all too well. Since 2016, Krol has been the leader of 50plus, a political party in the Netherlands that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The young upstart party, dedicated to the concerns of the elderly, has had plenty of success. It progressed from provincial elections in 2011 to two seats in the 2012 general elections, and now to victories in all 24 city-level elections it recently contested – and it’s not all down to demographics.
Rather, Krol (a leading force behind the Netherlands’ decision to recognise gay marriage in 2001) believes the traditional political left and right are being replaced by a new group of voters who feel no strong political affiliation. “People have the feeling that in some aspects they’re right wing and in other aspects they’re left wing,” he says. “I hardly know any people who are left wing or right wing 24 hours a day.”
50plus is one of a number of narrowly focused pressure parties who have seen success in the Dutch political system, including the Party for the Animals and the Green party. And, like many parties operating outside the traditional two-party systems, the more mainstream groups often poach their headline policies. Krol claims credit for a new proposal to improve the Dutch pension system as a result of 50plus’s very presence in parliament. “We’ve achieved so many things,” he says. However, Krol isn’t worried that policy poaching will threaten 50plus’s existence. Parties such as his have a vital role bridging the gap between an entrenched left and right. According to Krol, politicians from both sides of the political spectrum informally approach his party with requests to introduce sensible legislation that they fear will be voted down by the opposition if brought in their own name. In the Netherlands’ parliament, it seems, people still listen to their elders.
Donald Trump is getting bored of the White House and isn’t planning to run for a second term, according to Pippa Malmgren, former special policy adviser to George W Bush.
Instead she believes Trump wants to launch the Trump News Network (TNN) in preparation for the array of pending legal investigations. “Legal bills in America are expensive,” she says. “So if you know that you are heading into a legal contest with significant consequences then generating some cash flow might seem like a sensible idea. He just needs a mobile device to move global headlines. Would TNN generate cash flow? Yes.”
Moldova’s parliamentary elections on 24 February will see a controversial new mixed voting system make its debut. Pushed by pro-Europe prime minister Pavel Filip and signed into law by pro-Russia president Igor Dodon in 2017, many say the system, which stipulates that half of lawmakers will be elected on party lists and the other half in constituencies, has been designed to boost the country’s two main parties.
Others are concerned about Russian meddling after Moscow declared that Moldovans working without permits in the country can go home to vote and re-enter Russia without fines.
Gene Alcantara is a UK-based Filipino writer and critic of the Duterte regime, which has killed 20,000 people in its anti-drug war across the Philippines. He moved to London in the 1970s to attend university and has since started an immigration consultancy firm there.
How have Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal policies affected the drug scourge?
He is putting on a show when he says he will rid the country of drugs. He has slaughtered many small-time users and dealers but not a single major drug lord. Local politicians who traffic are now being targeted but only to stop them competing with other traffickers for a share of the market. So drug use hasn’t declined.
Where do most expat Filipinos stand on Duterte?
We held a mock election in London in early 2016 and the majority supported him. The pattern is the same in the US and Europe. Many of these people were not interested in politics until they were engaged by Duterte’s online campaign, which is key to his popularity.
How do you combat Duterte’s online supporters?
I do so with my blog, my journalism and on social media. I help to organise rallies, meetings and demonstrations. Our movement has hosted Filipino politicians opposed to Duterte, such as congressman Gary C Alejano.
The International Criminal Court is investigating Duterte but the Philippines has criticised it for focusing on the developing world. Is that hypocritical?
Maybe but nobody has made a complaint against Tony Blair over Iraq, for example. Whereas we have complained against Duterte. If he can be impeached then we hope the vice-president, Leni Robredo, can end the killings and address why people elected Duterte in the first place: poverty, alienation, lack of land reform, corruption and so on.