The lamestream media and "forces of progressivism" are positively rapturous over the results of yesterday's parliamentary elections in the Netherlands -- a country in which the outside world took little interest until Geert Wilders, leader of the Free Party (PVV), unveiled his party's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim platform. The liberals hollered "Islamophobia" long and loud, demonizing Mr Wilders as the "Dutch Trump" and even as the "New Hitler". If he wins, they said (looking nervously over their shoulders), predicting the outbreak of racial and religious war in Europe (as if that hasn't happened already) and the breakup of the European Union.
Well, Mr Wilders and the PVV did not win. With 97% of votes counted, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his VVD party were re-elected, winning 33 out of 150 seats, a loss of eight seats from the previous parliament. Mr Wilders' Freedom party was in second place on 20 seats, a gain of five. The centrist Christian Democrats (CDA) and the liberal D66 party followed with 19 seats each, and the Green Party gained ten for a total of 14 seats.
Prime Minister Rutte exulted that the Dutch people rejected what he called "the wrong kind of populism". "The Netherlands said 'Whoa!'", he declared. Absent from his self-congratulation was any reference to the fact that, for much of the campaign, he appeared to be racing to keep pace with Mr Wilders, and moved his party's position on immigration and the integration of "newcomers" considerably to the right to meet Mr Wilder's challenge.
Nor did Mr Rutte say anything about the fact that the leftish Labour Party (PvdA), the junior party in the previous governing coalition, suffered a historic defeat, winning only nine seats, a loss of 29, in spite of a record turnout of 80.2% of eligible voters, the highest in 30 years, which analysts say may have benefited pro-EU and liberal parties.
Here's the way I look at it. Twenty-eight (count 'em, 28) parties contested the Dutch election. Mr Wilders' Freedom Party finished second -- not bad out of 28. Even if they had won, they wouldn't have been able to form a government, as the other parties -- all of them -- had declared in advance that they wouldn't partner with the "racist, Islamophobic" PVV, no matter what!
For his part, Mr Wilders said, "The genie is out of the bottle!", meaning that he had succeeded in bring the issues of immigration and the Islamization of Europe to the top of the minds of the Dutch people. He has a strong position in the new parliament, warned that Mr Rutte had "not seen the last" of him. "It's not the 30 seats I hoped for," he said, "but we have gained seats. This patriotic spring will happen."
What does the result mean for Europe and the EU? In April, the people of France go to the polls to elect a new president, with Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, expected to win at least the first round of voting. In Germany, the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) may win seats in parliament for the first time ever in the general election to be held in September.
CBC News quotes (((Mabel Berezin))), professor of sociology at Cornell University, as saying that the defeat of Mr Wilders [Funny they call it a Wilders defeat rather than a Rutte victory. Ed.], who has been in parliament for nearly two decades, should not be considered a sign that European populism is waning. "He does not represent a populist wave. Rather, he is part of the political landscape and how his party fares does not tell us much about European populism," she said. "The real bellwether election will be Marine Le Pen's quest for the French presidency. That is where the populist action is and that is what we should be focusing upon."
COMMENT added 18/3/17: from Tony Burman, foreign affairs columnist for the Toronto Star: Result aside, there were aspects of the campaign itself that may surface elsewhere. Rutte, ostensibly a “liberal,” did little to challenge the anti-Muslim rhetoric of Wilders. In fact, Rutte incorporated some of Wilders’ themes into his own campaign. This included a full-page letter in Dutch newspapers that criticized Muslim immigrants for not integrating into Dutch society: “Behave normally, or leave,” the letter warned. This meant that Rutte fought Wilders on his own terms, instead of providing Dutch voters with a positive, high-minded vision of a Netherlands strengthened by its multicultural character.