Dutch voters went to the polls on Wednesday to elect city councils in almost four hundred municipalities. In the wake of the government’s collapse two weeks ago, the local elections were closely watched as an indicator of which way the country will swing this summer.
Both of the resigning ruling parties, the Christian Democrats and Labor, suffered in the polls although the latter has managed to improve its poll numbers somewhat compared to when it was in government.
The opposition is emerging with vigor. Nationwide, both the anti-immigration Freedom Party of Geert Wilders and his nemesis, Alexander Pechtold, of the center-left Democrats are on the rise. Locally, the right-wing liberal party is expected to come out with most support.
The liberals, in part, have Wilders to thank for their comeback. His party competes in only two major cities. Many of his supporters in other parts of the country opt for the liberals because their immigration and security policy is similar to his, if less Islamophobic.
The progressive Democrats are also indebted to Wilders. Pechtold has positioned himself as the right-wing foreman’s staunchest critic in parliament, emphasizing the Netherlands’ traditionally open and cosmopolitan character as opposed to the nationalism of Wilders and his party.
Since he ran and won on his own ticket in 2006, Wilders has made a series of dramatic proposals to curb what he calls the Islamization of the Netherlands, including banning of the Quran and taxing Muslim women for wearing headscarfs. Wilders is awaiting trail for accusations of hate speech.
According to the polls, the Socialist Party will have to give up over half of its seats. The more moderate Green Party instead would nearly double its support.