Dutch voters head to the polls; Fed expected to raise rates; German draft budget

These three things will change the world today.

1. Will the Dutch elections be a win for far-right populism?

The first of three important European elections takes place today and voters in Netherlands head to the polls.

The Freedom Party, headed by Geert Wilders, has been running on an anti-immigration platform. He pledges to take the Netherlands out of the EU, as well as ban the Koran and close all Mosques in the country.

Wilders main opposition is the country’s current prime minister Mark Rutte, who heads up the centre-right party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. He has described the election as an opportunity for voters to “beat the wrong sort of populism”.

Rutte has been at the centre of a row with Turkey after he banned two Turkish miniters from addressing rallies in the Netherlands. Turkish president Erdogan accused the Netherland of being “Nazi remnants”.

This public spat and the riots that took place in Rotterdam in response could have given anti-immigration parties a boost, according to opinion polls.

If Wilders and the Freedom party do win seats today, it could be a signal of the how far-right populism is spreading across Europe. This could be replicated in the French presidential elections, which begins at the end of April, and the German parliamentary elections in September.

2. Federal Reserve expected to raise US rates today

The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, is expected to raise interest rates for the second time in three months today.

This is down to strong job gains and confidence that inflation is finally rising.

The bank is expected to carry out three or even four rate hikes this year after it projected the rises at the December policy meeting.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs said:

“Expectations have some catching up to do regarding the Fed’s need to ‘lean into the wind’ of rising inflation, strong growth, robust sentiment, easy financial conditions, and the likelihood of fiscal stimulus in 2018.”

A rate increase would push the Fed’s target overnight lending rate to between 0.75 percent and 1.00 percent, bringing it closer to the range the bank has typically operated within.

3. German finance minister presents his draft 2018 budget to Parliament

Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble will present his draft 2018 budget to the German parliament today.

Schaeuble’s goal for 2021 is to bring the country’s total debt to below 60 percent of GDP and will announce his plans addressing how to do this today.

He is also expected to signal a priority for investment in education, internal security, defence and international cooperation.

Schaeuble’s plans for the economy could be disrupted as the country is set to head to the polls in September to elect a new government.

Merkel, who heads up the conservative bloc in the Bundestag, made up of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU), is attempting to go for a fourth term as chancellor.

However, the Social Democrats (SDP) have had a recent surge in polling after nominating Martin Schulz, an ex-European Parliament president, as the party’s leader.

Merkel said that September’s election will be the “toughest I have ever experienced.”