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Dutch Election: The Aftermath
The Center Holds in Dutch Elections

It was the populist revolt that wasn’t: after months of favorable polling, the Netherlands’ Euroskeptic, anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders failed to deliver in the Dutch elections, paving the way for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centrist party to form a new coalition government. The Guardian:

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-seat Dutch parliament, the national news agency ANP said.

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.

“Our message to the Netherlands – that we will hold our course, and keep this country safe, stable and prosperous – got through,” Rutte told a cheering crowd of supporters at the VVD’s election night party.

After Britain’s shock Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s presidential victory in the US, he added, the eyes of the world had been on the vote: “This was an evening when … the Netherlands said ‘Stop’ to the wrong sort of populism.”

Rutte is not the only one to seize on the election as a major victory against the forces of resurgent populism; European leaders from Angela Merkel to Jean-Claude Juncker are doing the same. But the symbolic significance of the election is likely to be greater than its practical impact. When the music ends and the winning parties find their seats in a new coalition, its ideological composition could look broadly similar to the previous Dutch government.

True, Rutte’s Labour coalition partners had a historically bad night, losing 29 seats and falling from second to eighth place overnight. But their left-leaning influence is likely to be replaced by smaller leftist parties that had a strong showing at Labour’s expense, like the pro-EU Democrats 66 and the Greens party, which made major gains by riding a wave of youth support. Meanwhile, the Christian Democratic Appeal, which tied for third, is likely to join VVD as the voice of the center-right in the coalition.

With Wilders excluded by previous agreement, then, the next coalition government will be more diffuse than the previous one, but its ideological balance could be much the same, with both center-left and center-right represented in a broadly pro-Europe government. Wilders’ influence on Dutch politics is not going away, but the status quo is holding for now. The unstoppable wave of nationalist populism predicted in the wake of Brexit and Trump may not be so unstoppable after all.

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  • Unelected Leader

    This is a total win for populists. Wilders party gained seats, and the incumbent PM had to take a hardline against the Turkish govt and Muslims acting up in the Netherlands (basically sound like Wilders) to keep his seat.

    • Suzy Dixon

      I agree. Look at six examples.
      1. UKIP causing Labor Party chaos and Brexit winning looking like Scotland will try to go its own way for real.
      2. PVV gaining and the current PM having to sound like Wilders to win.
      3. Front National looks like it will probably win a plurality in the first round, and even if it loses in a second round it will make gains and basically guarantee a later victory.
      4. Italy defeated their anti democracy referendum and the Five Star Movement is making gains despite an electoral system that favors parties running as coalitions.
      5. Austrian populists came in a close second in the election and Hofer showed just how populist half of the country is.
      6. You could include the increasingly euroskeptic (merkel skeptic) Poland, Slovakia, Czech etc.

    • Charles Martel

      I am told that the Christian Democrats also sharpened their rhetoric and policies regarding immigration – they gained significant seats as well.

      Overall, this election showed a significant shift to the right, and the utter collapse of the social democrats. The emergence of a Dutch version of George Galloway (DENK) probably bodes well for anti-immigration forces in future as well.

    • Andrew Allison

      Hard to believe that TAI is so naive (or is it just wishful thinking). Wilders moved the majority party a long way toward the PVV position, just as Le Pen has moved Macron.

  • Beauceron

    It is certainly not the win they were hoping for, but gaining 33%, going from from 15 seats to 20 seats in parliament, is not exactly a terrible result.

    Frankly, even though the media, being the media, likes to compare him to Trump, banning the Koran and closing all mosques seems a bit extreme.

    Nevertheless, while I am sure the EU elites are delighted, it’s hard not to view this as Europe missing the last chance to save their culture and societies. Ah, well. I suppose we can still take photos of the Grande Mosque de Paris, formerly known as Notre Dame de Paris, from the outside.

  • Kevin

    Like UKIP, the PVV is unlikely to ever lead a government, but instead to drive the more established parties to adopt (watered down) versions of its platform to avoid being swept away. Marine Le Pen seems to be having a similar effect on Fillon in France.

  • Pete

    “The Center Holds In Dutch Elections.”

    Pity as the status quo is rotten to the core.

  • Charles Martel

    The big story here is not the erosion of the anti-immigration right, but the collapse of the social-democratic left. Parties of the right gained 5 seats, parties of the centre gained 9, while the left as a whole lost 14. That’s a significant shift in a fragmented and proportional system.

    • ljgude

      Clearly put. More broadly I think Brexit showed a swing of the pendulum against trans nationalism while Trump’s victory showed a distinct element of collapse of the left reminiscent of the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe perhaps or even precisely because they are examples of the collapse of the same millennialist ideology. They are millennialist because, like any such cult, when the appointed future fails to arrive, they collapse momentarily and raise their eye to the horizon once more to start preparing the way for the worker’s paradise or Gaia’s reign. So the Dutch have found a youthful Sanders or Corbyn and the Reds and the Greens are becoming more openly allied. Merkel faces what I believe is the union of two Red factions (Social Dems and former Communists I believe) and the Greens into what is called a Red Red Green coalition. I only know American and Australian politics by direct experience so I know I am being highly speculative but I think there is a pattern of the left doubling down on their ideology in response to a shift to the right that is making its way around the western world. This is a very delicately balanced thing – Brexit passed by a small majority and Trump only won by a constitutional majority. I think it is naive to expect a ‘wave of populism to sweep Europe. It is a pendulum for the most part, but what may be emerging as the weight of the pendulum begins to bear on electorates the most ideologically deluded – the multicultural Marxist left – are the first to collapse.

      • Charles Martel

        I think it is very difficult to predict future political trends – but what I see is a slow shifting of the Overton window to the right in Europe, combined with a slow shift towards conservatives and nationalists. It goes by fits and starts, but it goes. The nativist far right is at or near peaks of popularity in nearly every European country (Germany, Sweden, France, Hungary, Greece, Austria). In some of those countries, the left has been hollowed out and the conservative parties have gained (Holland, Poland, the U.K.); in others, the trend is still far too uncertain (Spain, Italy). I think there is a realignment that is happening, but we are still in the early stages, we shall see if nationalism has a ceiling, or if the nationalist discourse continues to migrate voters from left to right.

  • Andrew Allison

    Whistling past the graveyard of social-democratic policies.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    What? Am I looking at the right numbers? How is this a repudiation of Wilders Party? His Party went from 12 seats to 20 seats up 67%, while the supposed winner went from 40 to 33 seats down 21%. This looks like a huge shift in voting patterns, and establishes a trend. The trend is your friend, you have to expect the trend to continue until a new trend supersedes it.

    Calling this a loss for the Nationalists like Wilders Party in Europe is “Fake News”. I know math is hard, but trying to spin a 67% gain as a loss, and a 21% loss as a win is just insane.

    • solstice

      Correction: Wilders’ PVV went from 15 seats to 20 seats.

  • Andrew Allison

    This is the second completely idiotic post from TAI within a week (the first being the Pruitt nonsense). The center didn’t hold, Wilders has moved the Netherlands’s political needle sharply to the right. TAI used to be much smarter than this.

    • D4x

      It is all about which news source you read. Last night, almost every lede in skewed to a huge loss for Wilders. It was the first time I went directly to Breitbart , where the analysis was much more nuanced, not just about Wilders’ PVV gains, but how smaller parties did very well at the expense of Rutte’s VVD – interesting map.

      As for TAI? Just goes to show how progressives cling to their credentials and received wisdom, even with a commentariat like most of us. We do have more freedom of speech here, without the trolls.

      I disagree that this, and the Pruitt post, are “idiotic”. My concerns are the absence of intellectual curiosity by the interns writing the unattributed posts, and whether the editors? will ever step back and stop wishing Adlai Stevenson II was POTUS45.
      “…noted for his intellectual demeanor, eloquent public speaking, and promotion of progressive causes in the Democratic Party.” wiki

      • Andrew Allison

        Can we agree that purblind stupididy, er an absence of intellectual curiosity, of the interns writing the unattributed posts, and the failure of the adults in the room to monitor them, are at the very least disappointing?

        • D4x

          We can agree on “the failure of the adults in the room to monitor them are, at the very least, ” journalistic malpractice!

          I try to say ignorant instead of stupid, and still have hope that, here at TAI, they are redeemable.

          Certainly did not mean to trigger you, and admit I use online commenting to practice moderation of my public social skills. 10 years ago, I was confronted by a petition name-gatherer outside a Trader Joe’s in Massachusetts. I declined to sign, saying ‘no difference between the two parties’. The female lunged to assault me.

          Besides, I really do hope the TAI interns and editors ARE reading, and learning from our comments.

          • Andrew Allison

            Far from triggered; I’m enjoying this “conversation”.
            Might I suggest that there’s a difference between commentary (a blog), journalism, and journalism as currently practiced by the MSM?
            I have no idea as to whether the grow-ups at TAI are attempting to educate the interns — I’m making an effort to encourage them to do so — or whether that’s our job [/grin].
            At a guess, the reason that FG got your comments deleted was a failure on the part of management to recognize that he’s ideologically blinkered, and you called him on it. Surely you are aware of “If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain” FG is well over 35.

          • D4x

            Good. I hesitated on using “journalistic”. This is not journalism, and am no longer certain what IS journalism since 2008. Yet, when the interns post here, it is not quite blog commentary.
            Am too hungry to continue tonight, except to say that I edited out my FG note because I do not want his softbullybaiting. At the time, I was triggered by veiled anti-Semitism. One of the reasons I greatly reduced use of images here.

          • Andrew Allison

            I blocked the irredeemable F-ing Goat months ago, and feel much better for it [/grin].

          • D4x

            How do you block replies in Disqus? Take your time – really hungry!

          • Andrew Allison

            Move your cursor to the right of the name of the individual in question, and click in the down arrow. Hope you enjoyed dinner.

          • D4x

            TY! Is it reversed with the up arrow? Now, PC shutdown, dinner.

          • Tom

            You are a sensible fellow. Trump’s election has thoroughly unhinged the man.

    • D4x

      Analysis that is far more clear: “Fragmentation in the Netherlands …A swing to the right, Labor crushed, Wilders underperforms”
      [includes turnout was 82%]
      Kaj Leers is the election campaign analyst for Dutch daily de Volkskrant. …The views expressed here are the author’s own.
      All depends on which news source…

  • D4x

    Anyone know if the Dutch vote was influenced by Turkey expelling 40 Dutch Holstein cows as a formal protest? [giving real meaning to the ‘look: a cow’ meme]

    “Turkey’s ongoing spat with the Netherlands is fast descending into the absurd. Members of Turkey’s Association of Red Meat Producers loaded 40 Dutch Holstein cows onto a truck and sent them packing to Holland to protest Dutch authorities’ refusal to allow Turkish officials to
    campaign on Dutch soil for the constitutional referendum that would further empower Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. …” posted March 15, 2017

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