Last Wednesday, Dutch voters went to the poll to vote in their parliamentary election.
Not unlike other recent political events in the West, one man gained popularity for his populist and far-right views, Geert Wilders – leader of the Freedom Party, or PVV.
This election, being the first in Europe since Donald Trump was elected as US President on a wave of populism, was regarded by the West as the next domino that could sink Europe in a new far-right era. Many international media outlets made it sound like the PVV was certain to come first or at least second in the vote.
Even if Wilders had won, he would have struggled to form a government. In the Netherlands, the winning party must gather others to form a governing coalition. Few political parties would have been willing to include Wilder’s party in a coalition due to its strong anti-Islam views, which have made him very popular in the United States. Opinion polls showed that PVV gaining the largest share of the popular vote, but this varied across the country and the party’s share had been in constant decline since the end of January, according to Leiden University.
Still, nationalism did not win in the Netherlands, leaving much of the Western world’s anxiety unfounded. The election is not a complete defeat for Wilders, whose party’s number of seats increased from 15 to 19, but he failed to gain a majority. To have do so, he would need 76 seats in total or in coalition with other parties.
VVD, the party of incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte, was the clear winner of this election gaining 31 of the total 150 seats. The next largest parties were CDA, the Christians Democrats, and D66, the pro-european party comparable to UK’s Liberal Democrats, with 19 seats. This new popularity in the Prime Minister’s party came after a diplomatic spat with Turkey after he forbade Turkish nationals, including ministers, from addressing a pro-Erdogan rally in Rotterdam less than a week before the vote.
Turkish President Erdogan addressed the Dutch government with strong words, comparing them to ‘Nazi remnants’. In response, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu threatened during an interview last Wednesday to stop a deal agreed with the EU in March 2016 which attempted to stem th e flow of refugees arriving in the Bloc’s member states.
Coalition talks will now take place in the coming weeks or months to form a government, but during the election campaign main-stream political parties said that they will not include Wilder’s party in any coalition. Nevertheless, the Netherlands has shown some of the same populist tendencies observed in the West after both Brexit and Trump’s election. France will be the next key European battleground, with Marine Le Pen’s popularity assuring her a place at the second round of the French presidential election.