Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Dutch voters had said “stop” after the examples of Trump and Brexit
DUTCH PRIME MINISTER Mark Rutte has celebrated election victory by saying that Dutch voters had rejected the “wrong kind of populism” after the experience of Brexit and the election and President Donald Trump in the US.
Far right Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders failed to come close to his hoped-for breakthrough, moving from 15 seats in 2012 to 20 despite widespread coverage of his campaign.
Some elements of the left fared well in the election, with the Green Left party leaping from 2.3 per cent of the vote in 2012 to winning 14 seats with the hard left socialist party vote holding up with 14 seats.
Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy saw its vote fall from 26.6 to closer 20 per cent in a campaign dominated by anti-immigrant rhetoric and clashes with the Turkish Government. The Dutch Labour party, which shared a pro-austerity coalition with Rutte, has seen its number of seats collapse from 38 to just 9. This also meant the loss over several socialist parliamentarians under the Labour banner.
Politicians all over Europe were watching the election intently as a possible indicator of the strength of the far right populist mood in the continent. Since the EU was shaken by Brexit in 2016, fears have risen of populist upsets in the two most integral EU states, France and Germany, where xenophobic Front National and Alternative for Germany parties will contest for power this year.
Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian Prime Minister and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator welcomed the Rutte’s victory and the success of smaller centrist parties like D66, which won 19 seats.
— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) 15 March 2017
Responding to an early exit poll providing an outline of the eventual results, he said : “1st exit polls great! @VVD by far the biggest. @D66 up by a lot. Pro European parties on the rise. NL remains liberal & pro-Eur. stronghold!”
However other commentators focused on the growing polarisation of the election and the shifting balance of power on the left from the centre to more hard-line positions.
The big story of the Dutch elections is not about Wilders, but about the total implosion of the Social Democratic Party & rise of the Greens
— Rutger Bregman (@rcbregman) 15 March 2017
In his victory speech, Rutte said: “The Netherlands, after Brexit and the US elections said ‘stop’ to the wrong kind of populism.”
Green Left leader Jesse Klaver welcomed “an historic night” for the party, and thanked all those who had built the Green Left in the preceding 25 years. Emile Roemer of the Socialist party welcomed the result and said the left had “held a campaign to be proud of”.
A disappointed Wilders said: “It was not as much as I hoped for…I still want the PVV [Freedom Party] to take part in government.”
Rutte will now be tasked with pulling together a coalition from among the 150 seats in the Dutch Parliament.
Picture courtesy of Prachatai
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