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By Dries Van Thielen
After a populist Brexit Campaign voted to secede out of the EU and the United States elected Donald Trump as their president, an uncomfortable nationalist wind was blowing towards The Netherlands in the form of Geert Wilders (PVV). On March 15, the Dutch faced parliamentary elections and they were polled to be a neck-to-neck race between Prime-Minister Mark Rutte’s party VVD (conservative-liberal) and PVV (conservative-nationalist). It turned out to be less drastic. Although they lost voters in comparison with 4 years ago, the first exit polls show an overwhelming victory of VVD.
The liberal Conservatives raked in around 31 (of 150) seats in parliament, followed by PVV (19), Left-Liberal D66 (19) and the Christian Party (19). The socialist Party PvdA–governing partner of VVD – dropped to 8 seats – an all-time low. In the first exit polls, no mention was made of the Libertarian Party.
The citizens of the Netherlands were interested in these elections for more than 80% cast their vote which is much higher compared with 74,1% in 2012.
Exit populist movement in Europe?
Wilders straggly plan to prohibit Muslims in The Netherlands attracted fewer voters than expected (and compared with 2012). It seems as if the effect Wilders has worn off. Does this result announce the end of populism in Western Europe?
Prime Minister Rutte (VVD) saw these elections as a quarter-final. If the nationalists won the Dutch popular vote, Rutte feared a populist domino-effect throughout Europe. The French will head towards the election booths for the presidential elections in April and May. However, recent polls predict a small margin in favor of Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron over nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen. Finally, tensions are heated in Germany where anti-migration party Alternative Für Deutschland (AfD) face the Christian party of chancellor Merkel in September.
The effects of the abasement of the Dutch populist party on these upcoming elections are unclear…