Dutch reject Wilders’ populism

Dutch reject Wilders’ populism

Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom was left disappointed.

There is not going to be a European Union referendum or a “Nexit” from the EU after anti-Islamic populist Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) suffered disappointment in the general election.

Instead Dutch political leaders face complicated coalition talks with at least four parties likely to enter government.

It was the first western general election since Donald Trump’s victory in the US and the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU.

Early polls had put Wilders ahead of Prime Minister Mark Rutte but the PVV ended up with around 14 per cent of the vote and if 1 per cent had gone the other way, Wilders would have ended fourth instead of second.

Rutte’s Liberals (VVD) are set to remain the largest party, with 33 seats, although it lost eight. After polls closed, Rutte hailed the election “a feast for democracy”.

“It appears that the VVD will be the biggest party in the Netherlands for the third time in a row,” Rutte told cheering supporters in The Hague. “Tonight we’ll celebrate a little.”

The result was a “beautiful victory for the liberals”, one ex-banker said. Pieter Veldhuizen, a VVD campaigner, said the result showed that the Dutch preferred those who “do things” rather than “tweet on the sofa”, presumably in reference to Trump.

The PVV looked set to win 20 seats. Both the Liberals and every other sizeable party had ruled out collaborating with the PVV in government.

The election saw the final disintegration of the two parties that have largely dominated Dutch politics since 1945: the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.

Three decades ago the Dutch Labour Party and the Christian Democrats won more than two-thirds of the votes between them with that amount falling below one-third on Wednesday.

Centre-left Labour, the junior partner in Rutte’s coalition, lost three-quarters of its seats as voters appeared to blame it for Liberal austerity.

Smaller partners in coalitions often face a backlash in elections.

The party went from securing 38 seats in 2012 to a feeble nine.

“In the Netherlands – particularly over the last 15 years – governing means losing votes,” said Hans Vollaard, a political scientist at Leiden University.

Rutte’s caretaker cabinet will run the country until complex coalition talks are completed and it is supposed to avoid controversy, which might prove challenging in the torrid climate of EU politics.

Picture credit: Wikimedia

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