Former Catalan president barred from office / Dutch anti-Islam party advances / Taiwan fears China’s military buildup

10 to 16 March

Mark Rutte, the winner of the Dutch election.
Mark Rutte, the winner of the Dutch election. Author: Andrej Klizan
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. International media attention has been focused this week on the Dutch legislative election. As expected by surveys, right-wing, anti-Islam PVV party has grown, but PM Mark Rutte’s liberals have managed to preserve their place as the largest party by a comfortable margin. In Catalonia, former president Artur Mas has been barred from office for two years for having organized a non-binding independence vote in 2014. In Taiwan, a government report warns of a growing Chinese military buildup.


Former Catalan president given 2-year ban over non-binding referendum. Artur Mas has been barred from office for the next 2 years after the Higher Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) ruled that a 2014 referendum on independence was organized in breach of a legal order by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Along with Mas, former deputy president Joana Ortega (1 year and 9 months) and former Education minister Irene Rigau (1 year and 6 months) have also been barred from office. Mas, Ortega and Rigau have said they will appeal, even at the Strasbourg Court if necessary. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has rejected the ruling, and has said: “The [2017 upcoming] referendum [on independence] will absolve what the Spanish justice system has sentenced.”


Anti-Islam PVV party becomes second largest in the Netherlands. The Dutch election of 15 March has been won by PM Mark Rutte’s Liberals (VVD), with 33 seats out of 150 in the Dutch Parliament. Rutte will need to forge an agreement with at least another three parties to enjoy parliamentary stability. Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV, right-wing anti-Islam) has become the second largest party, with 20 seats. Behind, with 19 seats each, the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Social Liberals (D66) are placed. The Socialists (SP) and the Greens (GL) are left each with 14. The Social Democrats (PvdA) have suffered a historic defeat, as it has been left with a mere 9 seats (they won 38 in 2012).

Taiwan reportwarns of China’s increased “military threat capabilities”. The report, which was seen by Reuters, was drafted by the Taiwanese government. It links the island’s “freedom and prosperity” to its ability to defend itself. The report has been drafted at a time when China has carried military exercises in waters near Taiwan, and amid a growing Chinese military deployment in the Paracel and Spratly islands.

Duterte seeks to startfederalism road in 2017. The Philippine president insists that system is most appropriate for the Asian country. The controversial leader —Duterte has previously taken pride in having killed people involved in trafficking or drug consumption while being mayor of Davao City— alleges that federalism will promote law and order. In the country’s south, a peace agreement to expand the Bangsamoro self-government remains to be implemented.

Pakistan to turn Gilgit-Baltistan its 5thprovince. The Himalayan region, which has its own Assembly, is not listed in the Pakistani Constitution as a province of its own. India claims the territory as its own. The Gilgit-Baltistan nationalist movement argues the territory is under Pakistani occupation, and calls for self-government. Gilgit-Baltistan has a culturally diverse population. Most inhabitants are Muslims, of various denominations. Its territory is strategically located, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor runs through it.

Pro-independence demonstration under preparation in Scotland. The All Under One Banner group is hoping to bring together thousands of people in Glasgow on June 3, and is confident that the march will be “one of the biggest Scotland has ever seen.” This coincides with the announcement by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon that her government will seek permission to hold another referendum on independence.