The political establishment believes they have had a significant victory with the results of the Dutch general election in the past 24 hours. Incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte who has been in power since 2010, and his centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy won 33 seats in the 150-member House of Representatives. Because the Netherlands uses proportional representation it has a multi-party system. Several parties have to agree to a coalition for a majority government to be formed but the party that wins the most seats is normally the senior coalition partner and hence their leader becomes Prime Minister. So, since Rutte’s party came first he is all but certain to retain his position.
Rutte’s victory is seen to come at the expense of long time nationalist and populist candidate Geert Wilders who is the founder and leader of the Party for Freedom. Wilders has been a long-time campaigner against the Islamization of the Netherlands with a long-standing policy to stop immigration to the Netherlands from all non-Western countries, begin closing down all mosques, ban the Koran under the nation’s hate speech laws and withdraw the Netherlands from the European Union.
During his victory speech Rutte claimed that the Dutch people had rejected “the wrong kind of populism” while Wilders stated “We have had a huge influence on politics,” but conceded “a victory but not the victory we hoped for’’. Rutte’s re-election was celebrated by the political establishment with a top official in the German government Peter Altmaier, head of the German chancellery tweeting “Congratulations on this terrific result.”. France’s outgoing unpopular socialist President Francois Hollande was even more glowing in a statement “The President of the Republic warmly congratulates Mark Rutte for his clear victory against extremism’’.
While Wilders’ party performance was not as high as the polling leading up to the election had shown the result should not be seen as a repudiation of the so called far-right in Europe as the mainstream media is glowingly reporting. Rutte despite being the establishment’s choice in fact only retained power by in the lead up to the election being Wilders light.
Looking in detail at the actual results of the election it is clear that it was an election which saw the rise of the right in Netherlands at the expense of the left. Although Rutte’s party was declared the victor they actually lost 8 seats. Despite their underwhelming result, Wilders’ party gained 5 seats to take them to 20 total and will be the second largest party in the House of Representatives. The Christian Democratic Appeal increased its seats to 19, a net gain of 6. Meanwhile the centre-left establishment Labour Party suffered a wipe out going from 40 seats to just 9. Here the mainstream media and political class spin that this election was a rejection of the right is clear false.
Rutte, although very flawed was not completely blind to the increasing problems the Netherlands has with continuing Muslim immigration. This has caused significant social unrest with growing migrant crime while the local population feeling like they are losing their country. In the lead, up to the election 80% of Dutch voters said they were concerned about immigration. Rutte back in January published an open letter to the Dutch people in the nation’s newspapers calling on migrants to assimilate stating that migrants who “refuse to adapt, and criticise our values” should “behave normally, or go away” and the Dutch people were sick of those who “harass gays, or whistle at women in short skirts, or brand ordinary Dutch people racists”. Rutte’s government had also officially ended the nation’s policy of multiculturalism in his last term.
The diplomatic rift with Turkey in the lead up to the election was a key event with Rutte’s government preventing Turkish government ministers speaking at pro-referendum rallies in the Netherlands which if successful would increase Turkey’s Islamist President Tayyip Erdogan powers. This tough stance against an increasingly hardline Islamic country was seen to benefit Rutte’s re-election and some commentators put it down to his late surge in the polls at the expense of Wilders.
While Rutte still supports the European Union and his opposition to multiculturalism are viewed by many as just words rather than action it is clear that his government’s direction has been influenced by the rise of Wilders and his party. Without Geert Wilders courage in highlighting the problems that decades of open borders immigration had brought to the Netherlands they could be in an even worse state than today. Wilders’ stance has cost him dearly in that he now needs 24-hour security due to the very real threat of political assassination. He was often the sole voice when nobody else was listening. He may not have won but he has changed the direction of Dutch politics.
Now that he has won the election we hope that Rutte sticks to his promises to promote greater integration, control the current migrant crises and continue to take a hard-line with Turkey over the current Islamist drift of that nation. The Netherlands has taken probably the hardest step so far in acknowledging there is a problem with non-Western immigration, let’s hope that they eventually reach the right solution.