Toronto - He built his campaign on anti-immigrant rhetoric, promising to ban the Quran, close Dutch mosques and pull out of the European Union. Wednesday, it proved all for nought as Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) were soundly beaten by voters who showed up at polling stations in record numbers.
Toronto – He built his campaign on anti-immigrant rhetoric, promising to ban the Quran, close Dutch mosques and pull out of the European Union. Wednesday, it proved all for nought as Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) were soundly beaten by voters who showed up at polling stations in record numbers.
According to a report in the Globe and Mail, voter turnout was estimated to have reached 80 percent in an election that analysts were viewing as a critical indicator of populist thinking in Europe as a whole. From the launch of his campaign, Wilders invoked Brexit and the election of US President Donald Trump as a signal that a worldwide populist revolution taking place. Dutch voters, it would seem, had a different message for Geert Wilders and the world.
Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, spoke about that message before supporters Wednesday night. “It is also an evening in which the Netherlands, after Brexit, after the U.S. elections, said stop to the wrong kind of populism.”
Wilders and his PVV party did manage to win four seats, enough say analysts, to give him and his base a platform in Dutch politics. Wilders agreed, tweeting, “We won seats! We’ve passed the first hurdle! Rutte is not rid of me yet!”
Although victorious, the two leading establishment parties lost serious ground. The Liberals lost ten seats and the Labour Party found themselves down by thirty seats. Political analysts are calling it payback for austerity measures put in place following the 2008 recession.
The biggest electoral gains were experienced by Jesse Klaver’s Green Left Party. Klaver, a Dutch-Moroccan led his party to a quadrupling of their previous performance, to sixteen seats. Thanks to the gains, the Green Left Party is expected to be a critical part of the Netherland’s new coalition government. Often compared to Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, for his welcoming approach to cultural diversity and immigration, Klaver sees himself more closely aligned to American Democrat Bernie Sanders.
According to the same source, Prime Minister, Mark Rutte is expected to begin forming that coalition immediately to send out a message of Dutch political solidarity to the rest of Europe. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Liberal MP and current Defence Minister spoke to reporters about the defeat of populist thinking in the election and its implications on the rest of Europe: “I think this is very good news for Europe. All of us have been witnessing Brexit and also Trump… So I am convinced that Germany, France and all the others with elections will be able to act accordingly.”
Looking around at her fellow Liberal Party campaign workers Wednesday night, Judith Tesser said, “Our people here, we are really very tolerant. For us, black and white, whatever religion, everything is the same. We live together, we share everything together, we work together. Populist people will always be around. But for us, it’s just statements and nothing more than that.”