Invisible and Unhinged, Wilders Loses Support in Netherlands

Geert Wilders
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders speaks at a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

Geert Wilders’ strategy of not showing up isn’t doing his Freedom Party much good.

Support for the party, which wants to take the Netherlands out of the European Union and stop immigration from Muslim countries, has gone down in the polls from a 21-percent high in December to 16 percent today.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberals are on track to surpass the Freedom Party as the single largest. In some surveys, they already have.

Even if the Freedom Party does place first, it is unlikely to join a coalition government. All other major parties have ruled out an accord. Read more “Invisible and Unhinged, Wilders Loses Support in Netherlands”

Dutch Parties Tried to Co-opt Populists and Failed

Geert Wilders
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders speaks at a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

The reason even right-wing parties in the Netherlands have ruled out forming a government with the nativist Freedom Party after the election next month is that they tried to make it work before — and failed.

Polls suggest the anti-EU and anti-immigrant party led by Geert Wilders could become the single largest with around 20 percent support. But it’s unlikely to come to power.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose liberal party is polling in second place, has said there is “zero” chance he will do another deal with Wilders after the Freedom Party leader walked out the last time they worked together.

There may be a lesson here for Republicans in the United States, who think they can co-opt Donald Trump, and Conservatives in Britain, who think they might harness the nationalist passions unleashed by Brexit. The Dutch experience suggests attempts to co-opt populism are unlikely to last and can easily backfire. Read more “Dutch Parties Tried to Co-opt Populists and Failed”

Nativist Freedom Party Draws Support from Dutch Periphery

Evening falls in Maastricht, the Netherlands, January 5, 2009
Evening falls in Maastricht, the Netherlands, January 5, 2009 (Bert Kaufmann)

Support for the nationalist Freedom Party rises the farther away one travels from the commercial and political heartland of the Netherlands on the North Sea coast, a recent survey shows.

The anti-EU and anti-immigrant party led by Geert Wilders receives around 20 percent support nationwide, but there are regional differences. Read more “Nativist Freedom Party Draws Support from Dutch Periphery”

Italy’s Five Stars to Switch from Anti- to Pro-EU Bloc

European Parliament
Three young women listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

Italy’s Euroskeptic Five Star Movement is leaving Nigel Farage’s group in the European Parliament and applying to join the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) instead, Beppe Grillo announced on Monday.

In a vaguely-worded blog post, the former comedian and Five Star Movement leader argues that by joining the liberal bloc, “we think we can deal with more concentration both, you and us, the next challenges.”

I’m not sure what that means. Read more “Italy’s Five Stars to Switch from Anti- to Pro-EU Bloc”

Brexiteers Demand Subjugation of Institutions to Will of “The People”

The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England
The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England (Shutterstock/Willy Barton)

Brexit’s erosive effect on British democracy continues.

Consider this recent story in The Telegraph, which takes the entire civil service to task for refusing to make Britain’s exit from the European Union a success.

The reality is that Britain’s civil servants are among the world’s most capable and that leaving the EU is going to be painful. There is no way to make Brexit a “success” by any objective measure.

As recently as a few months ago, serious Brexiteers recognized as much. They admitted that leaving the EU would have a negative effect on the economy, at least in the short term. But, they argued, independence from Brussels would make up for it in spirit.

Now even such admissions are taboo in Euroskeptic circles and civil servants who dare state the obvious are considered traitors to the cause. Read more “Brexiteers Demand Subjugation of Institutions to Will of “The People””

Poland’s Law and Justice Party Finally Went Too Far

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło and Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński attend a remembrance ceremony for the 2010 airline crash near Smolensk, April 10
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło and Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński attend a remembrance ceremony for the 2010 airline crash near Smolensk, April 10 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party backed away from controversial press reforms on Tuesday after several nights of street demonstrations in the capital Warsaw.

The concession is a rare victory for the liberal-minded opposition, which has otherwise been unable to stop Law and Justice from reversing the last twenty years of Poland’s democratization and liberalization. Read more “Poland’s Law and Justice Party Finally Went Too Far”

The French Far Right’s Family Feud Explained

Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, February 24 (European Parliament)

Politico reports that a long-simmering dispute between the two most prominent women of the French far right is getting out of hand.

There is even a risk of a split in the Front national, the website argues: between the faction of leader Marine Le Pen and the socially conservative wing that has rallied around her 26 year-old niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

The fact that it’s a family feud, in which the Le Pen patriarch and Vichy apologist Jean-Marie inevitably resurfaces, makes this a headline-grabbing story.

But there are deeper, geographical and political divides at play that have less to do with personality. Read more “The French Far Right’s Family Feud Explained”

Netherlands’ Wilders Attacks Court After Discrimination Verdict

Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders listens to a court proceeding in Amsterdam, June 23, 2011
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders listens to a court proceeding in Amsterdam, June 23, 2011 (Reuters/Robin Utrecht)

Dutch nationalist party leader Geert Wilders has attacked the judges who found him guilty of inciting discrimination on Friday and vowed to appeal the verdict.

The controversial right-wing politician dismissed the panel of judges as “Freedom Party haters” who convicted “half the Netherlands” along with him.

He previously called the proceedings a show trial and said he would not tone down his rhetoric whatever the outcome. Read more “Netherlands’ Wilders Attacks Court After Discrimination Verdict”

Trump’s European Admirers Are Deluding Themselves

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015 (European Parliament)

Donald Trump’s unexpected presidential election in the United States has delighted his ideological counterparts in Europe. Brexiteers in the United Kingdom think he will give them a better deal than Hillary Clinton. Populists in France and the Netherlands have responded to Trump’s victory with glee. So have ultraconservatives in Central Europe.

They should think again. Trump may be a kindred spirit. His triumph is a setback for the liberal consensus that nationalists in Europe and North America are trying to tear down. But he is no friend of European nations. Read more “Trump’s European Admirers Are Deluding Themselves”

Echoes of Clinton-Trump Contest in the Netherlands

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 5
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 5 (European Parliament)

Tom-Jan Meeus has a good piece in Politico about the state of Dutch politics five months out from the next election.

Meeus, who is a political columnist and former United States correspondent for NRC Handelsblad, argues that there is a American influence on this election: Should Donald Trump win in November, Meeus expects his Dutch counterpart, Geert Wilders, will shift further to the right. Mark Rutte, the incumbent center-right prime minister, could benefit if Hillary Clinton prevails.

This probably oversells the effect of America’s elections on the Netherlands’, but Meeuw is onto something. Read more “Echoes of Clinton-Trump Contest in the Netherlands”