The triumph of pro-Brexit in the 23 June, 2016 referendum sent shockwave across Europe and beyond. The apprehension was further compounded by Donald Trump’s victory in the November 8, 2016 United States Presidential election. Since then, many European leaders have been on the edge because of the rise of populism. They fear that the 2017 line up of elections in Europe might destabilize the region should the far right ideologists prevail. But analysts say the result of the Netherlands elections, in which the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte won by a landslide presents a life-line for European leaders in disarray. OMONU YAX-NELSON writes.
The boom of populist ideology across Europe and the United States which caused palpable apprehension throughout 2016 and the build up to many elections across Europe in 2017, seems to have busted. With the brilliant performance of VVD Liberal Party of incumbent Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.
Results from the Netherlands election say Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party won the most seats in Parliament, 32 out of the 150 seat parliament. Experts in International politics say, with this result, the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam nationalist Geert Wilders has been squarely nipped in the bud.
Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy is expected to take 32 of 150 seats, far ahead of any other party. The surging CDA Christian Democrats claimed 20.
Rutte, who is basking in the euphoria of his party’s landslide victory, did not however, have enough majority to form government. Thus necessitating a coalition government in which he is to serve a third term as prime minister.
Rutte called the election results “a celebration of democracy,” because, according to him, the Netherlands has said no to the “wrong kind of populists.”
Election analysts say, Rutte may have performed better because of his hardline stance in its diplomatic standoff with Turkey over the past week.
Diplomatic brawl had erupted with Turkey over the Netherlands’ refusal to let two Turkish government ministers address rallies in Rotterdam about a referendum that could give Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more powers. It gave Rutte an opportunity to show his statesmanship by refusing to bow to foreign pressure, a stance with widespread backing in the nation.
Rutte’s victory came as a huge relief to various European leaders who are voicing their approval of the election’s outcome. Many European leaders had come under intense apprehension of populist resurgence, which began with the Thursday 23 June, 2016 Britain’s referendum vote to exit the Pan European body, European Union (EU), in what was popularly referred to as ‘Brexit.’
The populist tension reached breaking point when Donald J. Trump took American political landscape by storm with his protectionist, anti-immigration—Islam rhetoric. The apprehension to got a point that the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis warned against the rise of populist government around the world.
With Trump’s triumph in the November 8, US presidential election, most analysts then, concluded that the March 2017 election was more likely go the way of the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam nationalist Geert Wilders.
They also fear that, if the populist ideology triumphs in the Netherlands, it might have domino effect on France, whose election and that of the Netherlands are just a month apart. France’s far right candidate Marine Le Pen has surged in popular support in the build up to the April, 2017 French election.
The Socialist Party candidate in next month French election and incumbent President, Francois Hollande who bookmakers fears may suffer defeat in April election released a statement praising “the values of openness, respect for others, and a faith in Europe’s future” as the only true responses to nationalism and isolationism.
Similarly, the elegant German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose approval rating or popularity has nose-dived because of his pro-immigration stance also called Rutte by phone.
Polls in recent time saw the German Centre-left Social Democrats opposition leader, Martin Schulz surge past Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, CDU. Analysts say the turn of event in might be the beginning of the rebuke of right wing populism in Europe. This analyst say may be soothing relief for Merkel and Hollande who many say might be the first casualty of populist resurgence in Europe and elsewhere.
Wilders’ run was seen as the latest test of a wave of populism to sweep across Europe, extending as far as the United States across the Atlantic Ocean. After Britain sent shock waves across Europe by voting to leave the EU, Wilders’ climb to prominence was seen as further warning that cooperation among European nations could be threatened.
Wilders campaigned on pledges of banning Muslim immigrants, closing mosques, prohibiting the sales of the Quran and a desire to withdraw from the European Union.