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Dutch Election Watch
Wilders Looms Large In Dutch Elections

The Dutch elections planned for March 15 are being closely watched as another test of the strength of European populism, as the far-right provocateur Geert van Wilders—whose PVV party is currently leading in the polls—seeks to take power in a country once seen as a haven of cosmopolitan liberalism. Whether or not Wilders wins, however, readouts from the first election debates show how he has already shifted the public discourse, leading mainstream politicians to tack to the right on the EU and migration. EU Observer reports:

The leader of the Dutch Christian-Democrats party CDA is slowly moving away from the traditional pro-EU message of its European political family, the European People’s Party (EPP).

Christian-Democrat MP, Sybrand van Haersma Buma, said on Sunday (26 February) at the first nationally televised debate ahead of 15 March general elections that he would “throw” the ratification bill of the EU-Ukraine association agreement “in the bin” if he became prime minister. […]

His remarks followed the first national election radio debate on Radio 1 that took place on Friday (24 February), in which Buma said that other countries will follow the United Kingdom out of the EU unless the bloc “drastically” reformed.

“If Europe continues on the same track, Brexit will not be the end of it,” he said Buma.

Buma is hardly the only Dutch politician to embrace aspects of Wilders’ agenda. Lodewijk Asscher, who leads the centre-left Labour party, has argued that the Netherlands should not accept any more refugees, and current Prime Minister Mark Rutte has lately sharpened his tone on the subject while promising to defend “Dutch values.”  This may be tame stuff compared to Wilders’ outlandish proposals to close all Dutch mosques and ban the sale of the Koran, but it does suggest how Wilders looms large over the election even as he maintains a low public profile and skips the debates.

Wilders’ influence has affected the race in other, more counterintuitive ways. As the Financial Times notes, the liberal party D66, which has stuck to its guns on supporting the EU and arguing for more immigrants, is poised to have its strongest electoral showing in over a decade. The trend suggests how complicated the race remains, with many on the Dutch left embracing D66’s defiant anti-Wilders stance against Labour’s more flexible approach; the latest polls show that Labour could slip from the second-largest party in parliament to the seventh.

With two weeks to go until the election, then, the race remains a dynamic one, and Wilders’ victory is by no means set in stone. In 2012, his party had a much weaker showing than the polls suggested, and his campaign infrastructure remains weak compared to his more established rivals. And even if Wilders wins, he will face a major challenge in cobbling together a coalition, given that several parties have preemptively ruled out working with him.

But after a year of upset victories, Wilders’ odds cannot be overlooked—and no matter the outcome, the Euroskeptic, populist sentiments he represents are likely to remain potent political force for some time to come.

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  • KremlinKryptonite

    Viktor Orban, Marine Le Pen, Mattias Karlsson, Geert Wilders, and Frauke Petry all have their differences, but they represent the last hope for Europe (if there is any hope to be had)

  • Thom Burnett

    European politician who oppose the EU and Muslim immigration are not ‘far-right’. They are not even right or conservative by any reasonable standard. They are leftists in favor of the strong regulation, income redistribution, clean energy, feminism, etc who disagree with the left only on the national sovereignty issue. Please stop calling them far right.

    • Boritz

      The far-right label comes directly from the European press. TAi uses the term identically as it appears in European newspapers. If this usage seems strange to you it is because this foreign matter has been dropped here by Euro-weenies.

      • Jim__L

        We should probably call it “metric” politics.

        • Disappeared4x

          “metric” politics does not have the cachet of ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’. We really are in PC, CE.

      • Thom Burnett

        This is a fine explanation of where the label comes from.

        I still object that TAI is using a partisan (and inaccurate label) chosen by Wilder’s political opponents.
        It’s like calling Trump our racist president. It may be what the Democrats want but it’s not the label a news source that’s trying to be neutral should be using.

  • Beauceron

    With Macron surging in the polls and the Germans looking like they are going to veer Left, I would like to see one continental European country try and save itself and fight for their future.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “The trend is your friend” (market investment rule of thumb). Political movement will continue to move in this direction until it stops moving in this direction (there’s nothing signaling a change in trend at the moment). European nations are on track to go back to supporting their own successful western national cultures. And the Euro and the EU will disintegrate as the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact did 25 years ago.

    • Angel Martin

      In terms of trends, when you look at the polling for right track / wrong track by country, Trump is not going to be the only anti-progressive nationalist to be elected in the near future.

      For example, France, it is hard for me to believe with 88 percent wrong track, that Le Pen will not be elected, regardless of current polling.

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