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.
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.
Jhim van Bemmel, who sat in parliament from 2010 to 2012, told the broadcaster Human that Wilders pulled out of accord with center-right parties that year for fear of losing popularity.
For two years, Wilders had supported a minority government led by his center-right rival, Mark Rutte. He walked out when the ruling parties proposed more austerity.
Wilders to this day maintains that he quit in order to protect pensioners from cuts. Van Bemmel disputed that assertion as “total nonsense”.
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.
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.
In the interview, Paul Wilders criticizes his brother’s take-no-prisoners mentality.
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.
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.
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.
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.