By: Nazia Memon
After months of heated campaigning Dutch voters have cast their votes on Wednesday and rejected the far-right populist agenda of Geert Wilders. These parliamentary elections were being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national votes in France and Germany later this year.
At almost 81 percent, turnout was the highest in 30 years in an election that was a test of whether the Dutch wanted to end decades of liberalism and choose a nationalist-anti-immigrant path?
After Britain’s shock Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s presidential victory in the US, the eyes of the world had been on the vote.
The possibility that the far-Right firebrand could become the largest party in the Dutch parliament had sent tremors through Europe’s political establishment in recent days fearing yet further destabilisation following the UK vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
Whereas European leaders believe that the values of openness, respect for others, and a faith in Europe’s future are the only true response to the nationalist impulses and isolationism that are shaking the world.
With nearly 95% of votes counted and no further significant changes expected, Rutte’s centre-right, liberal VVD was assured of 33 MPs, by far the largest party in the 150- and anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders’ Freedom party (PVV) looked certain to finish second, but a long way behind on 20 seats, just ahead of the Christian Democrat CDA and liberal-progressive D66, which both ended third with 19 seats.
The PVV anti-migrant party leader Geert Wilder had pledged to take the Netherlands out of the EU, close the country’s borders, shut down mosques and ban the Quran, but the people of the Netherlands voted overwhelmingly for the values Europe stands for-for its freedom, its tolerance and its empathy.
Wilders had vowed to “de-Islamise” the Netherlands in his one-page election manifesto and said he would close borders to immigrants from Muslim nations.
Observers believe that Geert Wilders had played on fears over immigration.
The defeat of Mr Wilders comes as blow to anti-EU populists such as Front National leader Marine Le Pen who is running in the French presidential election later this spring.
His victory would have a knock-on effect on Brexit talks by further weakening the EU as well as jeopardising the UK’s alliance with the Netherlands.
As far as the markets were concerned, the Dutch election result was somewhat of a relief, the euro’s rise was an initial reaction to the Dutch exit polls.
The euro climbed to a five-week high of $1.0746 on Thursday, after surging 1.2 percent overnight.
The Dutch Electoral Council will not announce the official result until nearly a week after the Dutch election has taken place.
Mr Rutte is now set to begin the often lengthy process of building a new coalition, most likely based around the VVD (Librals) CDA (Christian Democrats) and D66 (Democrats) a combination that falls five MPs short of a 76-seat majority, leaving him seeking a fourth coalition partner but which other party could join? Rutte has ruled out working with Wilders.
So far-Right Populism Failed In Europe, Geert Wilders (Dutch Version of Donald Trump) has lost the elections, it means Europe have learned from America’s mistake and in this historical elections the Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said ‘stop’ to the wrong kind of populism.”
Now many in continental Europe will breathe a sigh of relief that Wilders is kept out of the government.
It would be the real challenge for the broad coalition that will govern the country soon, must show responsibility and courage to work with real solutions. Only when that happens will the populist revolt die a quiet death.
Story first published: 16th March 2017