Editor: Dutch church relief tempered by people's support for Wilders

Mar 30, 2017, 01:11
Editor: Dutch church relief tempered by people's support for Wilders

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's centre-right VVD won by some margin.

Denk, a party supported by Dutch Turks, looked set to win three seats and become the first ever ethnic minority party in parliament, in a possible sign of deepening ethnic division.

After flirting for some months with putting anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders at the helm of the country of 17 million people, in the end Dutch voters, who turned out in droves, opted for stability in one of the eurozone's biggest economies. The first positive signals were past year with the presidential election in Austria.

The Dutch election result is a welcome break from the west's move towards the extreme right as exemplified most profoundly by Donald Trump who through demagoguery and outlandish behaviour sold the lie of change he would bring to lives of the left out sections of Americans who felt disenfranchised after eight years of the Obama administration.

If recent Dutch history teaches you anything about coalition-building, it is that it will not happen overnight.

But Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University in the United States, said defeat for Wilders, who has been in parliament for almost two decades, should not be considered a sign that European populism is waning.

Result aside, there were aspects of the campaign itself that may surface elsewhere. "It could become a very hard formation", Mr Rutte admitted in an interview on Dutch radio. Nationalist, anti-immigration rhetoric has factored in both of those campaigns. This included a full-page letter in Dutch newspapers that criticized Muslim immigrants for not integrating into Dutch society: "Behave normally, or leave", the letter warned.

So does this mean Wilders is insignificant?

Le Pen, unusually, didn't comment on the Dutch vote result.

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The election was closely watched across Europe as the first major test of the continent's perceived wave of far-right populism most embodied by the Brexit referendum a year ago that saw Britons vote to leave the European Union over is lenient immigration policies.

The charismatic leader appears to have drawn huge support among younger voters, and boosted his party from just four seats to 14.

"The unconvincing populist performance in the Netherlands may weigh on French voters' sense of urgency when heading for the ballots", said Garcia. That rests now with the next major test of the continent's ability to fend off anti-European, xenophobic populism: France, where the first round of elections, prominently featuring National Front leader Marine Le Pen, are in late April. This is the vote that may shape the next stage of modern European history.

Marine Le Pen's eurosceptic Front National party is now leading in the polls in France, however the outcome will not be decided until 7 May, leaving enough time for circumstances to change.

The 15 March elections saw current Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte win the most seats. In the absence of a more-than-50% vote for any one candidate, the two leading French candidates are left to compete in a second round, in which case polls suggest the final face-off will be between Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron. The prime minister's response to Nazi slurs against the Dutch made by the Turkish president was praised across the political spectrum.

The European Union, battered by the Brexit vote, still holds value for other member nations not eager to revisit issues of open trade and borders.

But the reverse may be happening.

Apart from Klaver's perceived honesty, the party's rise has also come at the expense of the tainted Labour Party (PvdA). There may be a backlash beginning to emerge against the radical right.

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