Hope for Europe

Did the Dutch national elections signal a move against the far-right?

BY AMANDINE RICHE

With the upcoming French presidential elections (April 23rd) and German federal elections (September 24th), many throughout Europe are worried about a strong far-right surge, especially in light of the Brexit and Trump fall out. However, we can take comfort in the results of the Dutch national elections, from a little under a month ago. Unlike the American elections, the Dutch were not voting for a president, but rather a parliament. Yet this did not stop tensions running high, particularly between two parties; current Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and ‘anti-immigrant extremist’ (The Week) Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV).

Described as a ‘peroxide-blonde crusader’ (Washington Post) and ‘inspired by Trump’ (Le Monde), Wilders is certainly an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hardliner. His goals include banning the Koran, closing down mosques and generally overhauling the rather laid-back Dutch political scene. Yet, although the PVV were leading in poll right up until the elections, they won only 20 out of 150 seats. On the other hand, the VVD won 33 seats, securing their place as the leading party once more, with the pro-EU liberal D66 Party coming in close third with 19 seats. Yet the real winners can be said to be the Green Left Party who boosted their seats from 4 to 14, an astonishing success.

According to The Guardian, these results were greeted with ‘a collective sigh of relief’ as the Dutch elections were seen ‘as a bellwether for a series of elections in Europe this year – France, Germany and potentially Italy’ (Wall Street Journal). The underwhelming PVV win has therefore been viewed by many as a good omen for the elections to come, a victory further emphasised by the 82% voting turnout, the highest in the Netherlands in 30 years. Therefore, although the PVV’s disappointing results certainly do not signal their exclusion from Dutch politics, this surge against populism certainly seems to brighten the future for European elections in 2017.

 

Sources:

 WSJ Staff. “5 Takeaways From the Dutch Election.” Blog post. The Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal, 16 Mar. 2017. Web.

Stroobants, Jean-Pierre. “Aux Pays-Bas, Le Leader D’extrême Droite Geert Wilders Domine La Campagne Des Législatives.” Le Monde. Le Monde, 28 Feb. 2017. Web.

Birnbaum, Michael. “Europe The Peroxide-blond Crusader Who Could Soon Top Dutch Elections.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 12 Mar. 2017. Web.

Law, Caroline, ed. “A Defeat for Populism.” Week 25 Mar. 2017: 4-5. Print.

Henley, Jon. “Europe’s Governments Signal Relief after Dutch Election Defeats Far Right.”The Guardian. The Guardian, 16 Mar. 2017. Web.

[Picture: Residents of Marker Wadden, in the Netherlands, queuing to vote in the parliamentary elections on Wednesdy 15 March. Photograph: Koen Suyk/EPA]

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