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The Far-Right Was Easily Beaten in Dutch Election as PM Rutte Wins Most Seats

Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), led by incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte, have triumphed in the Dutch elections.

Yesterday, the Netherlands went to the ballot box in the first of three huge elections this year that could decide the fate of nationalism in Europe. Centre-right Rutte was only marginally leading the polls ahead of far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), led by anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders. But as 80.2% turned out to vote, Rutte came out on top with 33 projected seats out of 150, as Wilders trailed with 20. 

However, it’s far from over. The Netherlands is a country of coalitions, and it could take months for Rutte to form a government that will be made up of at least four parties. As Global Citizen reported last week —  this is where it gets interesting . History tells us that on average, it takes 73 days to form a coalition. But Wilders will not be involved - despite now being the second largest party, every politician has refused to work with him since he was convicted for inciting discrimination last year.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About the Dutch Election

The Green Left (GL) party have also found unprecedented electoral success. Led by progressive Jesse Klaver, a man nicknamed the “Jessiah” by followers who liken the young politician to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the GL campaigned as a “movement of empathy”, and won more gains than any other party. Alongside pro-EU liberal D66 and centrist Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), it’s expected Klaver will play an important part in bringing the GL into their first ever coalition government.

The story of the day will undoubtedly be Wilders once more — locked out of power by an establishment that rejects ideas based on racism and Islamophobia. But whilst the PVV will unlikely play any part in coalition negotiations, it’s important to identify that the narrative has shifted. To appeal to those enamoured with Wilders’ nationalism, Rutte has increasingly edged towards echoing similar rhetoric. In January, Rutte issued an ad ordering immigrants to “act normal or leave” . Wilders may have no influence on policy, but his politics has left its scars.

“This was an evening when … the Netherlands said ‘stop’ to the wrong sort of populism,” Rutte remarked after the result was announced. Whether right or wrong, populism has been diluted, but it’s survived. Wilders has warned that the “patriotic spring” is still primed for release. At the upcoming elections in France and Germany, it’s vital that the debate shifts back.

Rutte's win is also a win for Global Citizens. The Netherlands has been a strong ally for several campaigns that Global Citizen has embarked on. The Netherlands' support of the #SheDecides campaign — started after US President Donald Trump put into place the Global Gag Rule, which restricts US funds from women's health groups around the world — has been critical. The Netherlands also has made massive commitments to getting access to improved water and sanitation facilities to more than 80 million people.