Votes are still being counted in today’s Dutch general election, but it seems that Geert Wilders, the anti-Islamic activist seen by some (though not H&D) as part of Europe’s “far right” has made far fewer gains than expected.
The first headline was the record turnout of 82% (here in the UK we haven’t had that sort of turnout since 1951).
And though Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative People’s Party has lost seats, it will remain the largest party. Rutte will stay in office with the support of several other centre-right and liberal parties.
Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom will be the joint second-largest party, probably increasing its representation in the Dutch parliament from 12 to 19, but has no chance of a role in government. Though an improvement on last time, this is well below Wilders’ best result in 2010 when his party won 24 seats.
The biggest winners today were a very different opposition party, Green-Left, who became the largest Dutch left-wing party, quadrupling their parliamentary seats from 4 to 16. While the big losers were the Labour Party – formerly, as in the UK, the main opposition party – who collapsed from 35 seats to 9.
As in France, the Dutch left is now fragmented into several different parties, with more radical forces in the ascendant. And that is the big long-term story: as in many other countries, mainstream conservatism just about holds on to power by patching together coalitions, getting weaker all the time; meanwhile the Left is in existential crisis, increasingly obsessed by racial/gender identity politics or environmentalism, while unable to face the fact that mass immigration has betrayed the Left’s traditional constituency – the white working class.
Liberal media commentators will be quick to hail this result as a setback for the “European far right”, but the truth is that Marine Le Pan is a far more serious politician than Wilders, and her FN has a much more solid political base than the Freedom Party. Don’t bet against Marine Le Pen winning the first ballot in next month’s French presidential elections!