Pragmatism Beats Populist Geert Wilders In Dutch Elections
While many onlookers from around Europe expected the Dutch elections to reflect the tensions around Brexit and Trump, many Dutch observers were less troubled. That was reiterated with the recent election result, as the ruling party comfortably beat the challenge of the PVV.
The election coverage has been dominated by the head of the Party For Freedom (PPV), Geert Wilders. The main challenger to Prime Minister Mark Rutte has the rhetoric to match his hairstyle. His platform has been considered an extreme right wing form of populism, seeking to ban Muslim immigration, mosques and the Koran entirely, and questioning the country’s EU membership.
However, speculation had been mounting that his outlandish persona matched too cleanly with that of Donald Trump, who is not well liked in the country. It seems that came to pass, with the party recording just 13.1% of the vote, translating to 20 of the 150 seats in Parliament.
The reigning People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) recorded 21.3%, retaining its majority. As the Netherlands uses one of the most proportional methods of voting, 28 separate parties split the vote between them. While the centre-right VVD lost eight seats, both the GreenLeft and Democrats 66 (a progressive party) made significant gains of 10 and 7 seats respectively.
As well as apparently arresting the tide of right-wing sentiment, the loss for Wilders offers some welcome stability to businesses. He has campaigned extensively on a Eurosceptic platform, and congratulated the UK following the Brexit vote. It was feared that a PVV victory would energise similar sentiments across the EU, particularly in France, which is facing its own divisive election.
Another interesting aspect of the election is the fall of the left-wing Labour Party, who lost a massive 29 seats. They appear to have been punished for their role in a coalition-backed austerity package, similar to the fate of the Liberal Democrats in the UK. While the new coalition will likely be centre-right, this may propagate a move towards a more Keynesian economic policy.
While the Netherlands is not considered among the key members of the European Union, it still offers an extremely healthy business climate. It ranks in the top 10 global economies by GDP per capita, is one of the world’s top 10 exporters, and is considered the best place in Europe for female entrepreneurs to start a business.