The surprise victory in the Dutch elections may be a game-changer for the EU.
Sometimes, it is better to wait and watch. The elections in Netherlands were something of this sort. The March 15th poll results in Netherlands were an Israeli-style fragmentation, rather than a populist revolt, British or American style. The staunchly anti-Islam, anti-EU, and anti-immigration Party for Freedom leader predicted, prior to the general election, that Netherlands is headed for the “Dutch Spring”, though he was highly contradicted by the mainstream conservatives. The shift to the right was to appease a portion of the electorate that is afraid of the increasing immigrants in non-Western states.
However, the country may not be headed in that direction. The Netherlands is in the wake of forming possibly the most complicated grand coalition government in her lifetime. The difficulty is heightened by a greater number of parties charged with making unpopular and tough decisions that currently the country waits for. Essentially, there is not much to say about an EU referendum or an exit of Netherlands, or a coalition that would include Wilders’s Party.
The neck-to-neck political race ended with the incumbent Prime Minister Rutte beating his close rival Wilders. Mr. Wilders’s election win would have justified the “populist wave sweeping over the West” narrative. Being the country’s biggest party, the psychological implications of PVV’s victory would have been huge. Infact, Geert Wilders’s win would have enabled Le Pen’s populist efforts too. The Dutch election results also explain the dawn of the ultimate disintegration of the two predominant parties in the political arena of Northern Europe since WWII – the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats.
The Netherlands now have two green parties, one anti-EU and another pro-EU. Also, two left-wing parties exist: the bigger Socialist Party and the miniaturized Social Democrats. Lastly, fundamentalist Christians have two parties with a single-issue party for senior citizens. As a result of the Dutch elections, a populist party for immigration, Denk also made it through. The election results put a stop to the dawn of populist opinion in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands.
Across the European region, the Dutch vote was a huge relief to anti-populist and centrist politicians. The Center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy leader Mark Rutte retained power even though he possessed fewer parliamentary seats. The left-leaning and anti-populist Green Party under Jesse Klaver tripled its seats.
Some known and rather overlooked reasons for the rise of the populist wave have been, rising terror strikes across the EU, the ever-increasing number of refugees, and the growing fear of religiosity in democratic states in Europe. Populism has had a reason, however inordinate in certain areas of policy-making. Some of these aspects had to be recognised at some juncture, and perhaps, the Netherlands elections were a testimony.
The center holding its position was a good sign from the Dutch elections. The Dutch voted in pro-systems that support free trade, pro-EU, and inclined to sensible immigration policies. Thus, the voting upholds an essential part of the post-WWII message. The Dutch people factored in the “Trump election” in making their voting decision. They realized that with a populist, the country is on the verge of getting all kinds of “whacky” policies. Since Brexit, a drop in populist opinion in the European Union may have played an important role in helping citizens realize the uncertainties underlying Brexit. This may have shifted the mood in the Dutch election. Therefore, the best strategy to govern for the centrist will be establishing a positive political agenda, without allowing radical right’s issues’ dominance. Germany and France are the next big game-changers now.