Rutte Cautions Against Populist “Experiment” in Netherlands

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives in Brussels for a meeting with other European leaders, February 12, 2015
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives in Brussels for a meeting with other European leaders, February 12, 2015 (European Council)

Two days before parliamentary elections, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has reiterated his opposition to a pact with the nationalist Freedom Party, telling Geert Wilders in person that the two will “never” work together again.

Earlier on Monday, Rutte urged voters not to let the Netherlands become the “third domino” that falls to populism after Britain voted to leave the European Union and America elected Donald Trump.

“This is not the time to experiment,” he told reporters in Rotterdam. Read more “Rutte Cautions Against Populist “Experiment” in Netherlands”

Geert Wilders Isn’t Really Interested in Governing

Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders attends a memorial ceremony in Almelo, March 2, 2015
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders attends a memorial ceremony in Almelo, March 2, 2015 (RTV Oost/Rogier van den Berg)

The absence of a serious manifesto did not suggest that the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders had any intention of governing after the election on Wednesday. Now two former elected officials of his Freedom Party have confirmed that he isn’t interested in power — especially the responsibility that comes with it. Read more “Geert Wilders Isn’t Really Interested in Governing”

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 Freedom Party Leader Cancels Second Election Debate

Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders attends a memorial ceremony in Almelo, March 2, 2015
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders attends a memorial ceremony in Almelo, March 2, 2015 (RTV Oost/Rogier van den Berg)

Are all populists so thin-skinned?

The Dutch Donald Trump, Geert Wilders, canceled his participation in an election debate organized by RTL in two weeks’ time after its news division published an interview with the politician’s older brother on Sunday.

The Freedom Party leader called the interview “incredibly vile,” but his brother hasn’t exactly shied away from the media. He even contributed to a left-wing opinion website for a while. Read more “Dutch Freedom Party Leader Cancels Second Election Debate”

Wilders’ Negativity an Opportunity for Optimist Rutte

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joins a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20 (European Parliament)

Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders may have just dictated the terms on which the Dutch election next year will be fought — and under which his rival, the incumbent prime minister Mark Rutte, is more likely to be prevail.

I wrote earlier this year that echoes of America’s presidential election could be heard in the Netherlands: Wilders shares an under-siege rhetoric and unceremonious style of politics with Donald Trump; Rutte, like Hillary Clinton, celebrates the country the Netherlands is, rather than it used to be, and represents consensus and a respect for political norms.

Those differences were driven home last week, when Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination by a panel of three judges for promising “fewer Moroccans” in the city of The Hague. Read more “Wilders’ Negativity an Opportunity for Optimist Rutte”

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”

Immigration, Ukraine Treaty Boost Dutch Nationalists

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

The nationalist Freedom Party has overtaken both ruling parties in the Netherlands as public opinion appears to be turning decidedly against both immigration and a European Union treaty with Ukraine that will be put to voters in April.

An average of polls compiled by the national broadcaster NOS shows the Freedom Party leading with 36 out of 150 seats in parliament.

While the party, led by Geert Wilders, has often polled high between elections, it has never been this popular.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberals would come in second with 23 seats, down from forty.

Labor, the junior party in Rutte’s coalition, would suffer an historic blow and lose 24 of its 36 seats, being overtaken — for the first time — by the far-left Socialists. Read more “Immigration, Ukraine Treaty Boost Dutch Nationalists”

Netherlands’ Wilders Rises as Immigration Concerns Mount

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

The Dutch Freedom Party recently placed first in a poll, overtaking the liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Is the Netherlands taking a hard turn to the right?

Not exactly.

The nationalist party led by Geert Wilders is at 29 out of 150 seats in Maurice de Hond’s weekly poll, or around 20 percent support.

That is up from the fifteen seats it has in now and would improve on its record election performance of 24 seats in 2010.

The ruling Labor and liberal parties, by contrast, are at a combined 29 seats in the same survey, down from a majority of 76.

Borders

The poll comes less than a week after the left-right coalition defended its spending plans for the next year. Wilders dominated the debate in parliament with a tirade against the Netherlands’ immigration policy, arguing that a majority of voters agree with him that the borders should be closed.

De Hond earlier found that 68 percent of Dutch voters are in favor of reinstating border checks inside the European Union’s free-travel Schengen Area.

Record numbers of asylum seekers are arriving in Europe this year from the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa. Many countries, like the Netherlands, are wary of a European Commission proposal to distribute migrants proportionately across the 28-nation bloc.

Wilders has accused the other parties of committing “cultural suicide” by admitting refugees from Syria’s civil war and advocates leaving the EU altogether to bring back passport controls and call a halt to what he describes as the “Islamization” of Dutch society.

Worries

For most Dutch voters, the Freedom Party leader goes too far. But those who worry about the influx of non-Western immigrants and the effect this will have on Dutch society have nowhere else to turn.

Most parties have distanced themselves from Wilders’ rhetoric with one Labor parliamentarian saying he sounded like a fascist.

Rutte disagreed, arguing that it’s not racist to worry about immigration.

More than 10 percent of the Netherlands’ population is foreign-born. Around 5 percent is of Moroccan or Turkish descent and Muslim.

Government statistics show that first-generation immigrants are far more likely to be on welfare than natives. Their descents, especially among the Dutch Moroccan population, turn up disproportionately in crime figures. 65 percent of young Dutch Moroccans has been a suspect in a crime at least at one point in their lives. A third has been arrested five times or more. Dutch Moroccans are four times more likely to be convicted of a crime than native Dutch.

Values

Surveys also reveal that most Dutch Muslims do not share the country’s otherwise liberal attitudes toward gender equality and homosexuality.

Wilders capitalizes on fears that Muslims will make the Netherlands poorer and less free.

Unlike nationalists elsewhere in Europe, he is a cultural liberal and advocate of gay and women’s rights.

Volatility

Wilders has never got the support of more than one in five Dutch voters.

It is worth pointing out that De Hond’s surveys are volatile. The more reliable Ipsos poll gives Wilders 22 seats. It had his party at 27 in January, when Greeks voted the anti-austerity Syriza party into office and the Euroskeptic leader called for a Dutch exit from the euro. Since April, his party has hovered north of twenty seats in Ipsos’ surveys.

The same company has Labor at fourteen and Rutte’s liberals at 29: the exact same number of seats they started out with this year.

The Socialist Party, which is also mildly Euroskeptic, doesn’t seem to benefit from left-wing voters’ disaffection with Labor. Rather the centrist and pro-European liberal Democrats, who have thirteen seats, are up in the polls. De Hond gives them seventeen seats; Ipsos 23. The party calls for closer European integration and a liberal immigration policy.

The Christian Democrats, who supported Rutte’s first government from 2010 to 2012, are the only party other than Wilders’ that rightwingers can turn to. They are up from thirteen to eighteen seats in the Ipsos poll. But their immigration policy is basically the same as the government’s.

Ruled out

The Freedom Party backed Rutte’s first administration, which tightened the Netherlands’ immigration laws. The informal three-party coalition broke down when Wilders refused to vote for deeper spending cuts in 2012.

The Christian Democrats paid a heavy price for governing with the support of a party many of their voters regarded as xenophobic. They are unlikely to ever work with Wilders again.

With the exception of the liberals and small parties on the right, all have ruled out governing with the nationalists. Even if Wilders were to win a plurality in the next election — due in 2017 — he probably could not find a majority to govern.