Is the ‘nationalist spring’ already over? Shock victories for the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump in 2016 seemed to mark a breakthrough for nationalist, populist politics. Supporters had hoped the narrative would continue, resulting in a victory for anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders in the Dutch elections. Voters, however, had other ideas.
In the run-up to the Dutch elections, opinion polls had consistently forecast Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) winning the largest number of seats. It would have represented a milestone in Dutch politics (though Wilders would have struggled to actually form a governing coalition). Instead, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling VVD party won the most votes, projected to take 33 out of 150 seats.
The PVV is in second place, with 20 seats. That is is still a gain of five seats, but it is also less than the 24 seats the party won in the 2010 elections. Instead, the biggest winners of the night (besides the VVD) were the Green-Left party, which increased its number of seats by 10 to a historic high of 14. The Christian Democrats (CDA) and the liberal D66 party each took 19 seats.
The greatest defeat of the night was suffered by the Labour Party (PvdA). They lost an astonishing 29 seats, leaving them with just nine seats. They had previously gone into coalition with the VVD as junior partners and voters had apparently punished them for it.
Mark Rutte now faces the difficult task of cobbling together a coalition. He has previously ruled out relying on Geert Wilders for support (as he did in 2010), but it’s unclear if a stable coalition can be formed with less than five partners. Left-wing parties, in particular, might look at the experience of the PvdA as a warning not to join a VVD-led government.
Do the Dutch elections show the populist tide has turned? Are the results a victory for liberalism? Were expectations set too high for Geert Wilders? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!