The European Union has been dealt some heavy blows in the recent past by the successful Brexit referendum in the UK and the continuous rise of EU skeptical parties in countries all over Europe threatening to follow suit. The Dutch National Election could’ve been another setback.
It seems that the Union has an increasingly dividing effect on a lot of countries, especially those facing issues caused by the rise of terrorist attacks, the Refugee Crisis, and globalization. The unbiased fear of becoming a stranger in the own country and the feeling of being vulnerable to outside forces, combined with the inability of the respective governments to acknowledge those feelings and find adequate solutions, has opened the door for populist parties to fill in.
Three of the most prominent countries with these exact issues, namely the Netherlands, France, and Germany, happen to hold a national election this year, that could have severe impacts on the future of the European Union. While France and Germany will have their elections later in the year, the Dutch people have already voted for their current Prime Minister and EU advocate, Mark Rutte, to remain, which is a relief for the EU. The results, however, weren’t as clear as it might seem and the political landscape of the country will inevitably change.
Populism is Stronger than Ever
Once the first results came in, there was a sigh of relief across Europe, as many feared the populist PVV party and their candidate Geert Wilders, who was projected to might even win the Dutch National Election, did not overtake Mark Rutte and the VVD, thus leaving the ruling party in the lead for another term.
It seemed like other nations with similar issues regarding right winged populists projected their fears onto the Dutch National Election and were relieved to find that the old order remained, ignoring what the results actually meant. While the PVV did not win the Dutch National Election, they gained momentum and came in on a strong second place that may not give them the power to lead the country, but to be the strongest opposition party with the possibility to grow and overtake when the next Dutch National Election is due. Being an opposition leader can be a very obliged role to play for the PVV as they don’t really have to govern, yet they’re free to point out mistakes and criticize without the obligation to offer solutions. This will undoubtedly prove to be a tough term for Mark Rutte to lead his country through.
Finding a Strong Coalition After the Dutch National Election Will be Tough
Having a strong and foremost populist opposition will require Rutte to find a strong coalition to lead the country with. The VVD’s former partner, the social democratic party PvdA, had the biggest loss to report, losing 29 of their 38 seats. The VVD could form a coalition with several of the stronger parties apart from Wilders’ PVV, but to actually achieve at least a small majority, they’d need to collaborate with at least three more parties which could prove to be quite troublesome.
It seems Europe, like Rutte, is almost ecstatic that the populist party hasn’t won without acknowledging that the results are less than ideal and, quite frankly a devastating loss for the social democrats. The party being shut down entirely while setting the stage for the islamophobic and EU skeptic PPV cannot be described as a win for Rutte. It feels more like a lucky punch that might have only been caused by the recent events unfolding between Rutte and Turkey. The prime minister displayed quite some courage in handling the pre-election events of Turkey’s politicians, forbidding them to speak in favor of Erdogan’s new presidential system in The Netherlands. An act that could have swayed some voters that would’ve normally voted for Wilders in the last couple of days leading up to the Dutch National Election.
Waiting for the Next Dutch National Election
It will be interesting as to what the active government will turn out to be and, most importantly, how it will hold up over the course of this term. The PVV is stronger than ever and won’t just lurk around but try to attack at every corner to fight back with an eye towards the next term. With the German and French elections around the corner, these results are only a poor consolation, nothing more, and will surely influence their outcome as well.
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