Voters in the Netherlands today faced the biggest test since Brexit on the rise of populism or ‘Trumpism” in Europe. Elections held today pitted twenty-eight parties vying for the Presidency and and seats in parliament. The biggest story of the day was the loss of far right wing populist candidate Geer Wilders, known for his sometimes controversial views on immigrants, refugees and race, in the presidential election. Wilders came in 2nd to incumbent conservative president Mark Rutte. While Wilders lost the election though, that doesn’t mean that populism also lost. His party the PVV, or the Party for Freedom, gained four seats, from 15 in 2012 to 19 last night and Wilders himself increased his polling numbers from a third place finish at 10.1% to a second place finish at 13.1% from 2012 to 2017. While Wilders didn’t win, he was successful in making the other parties respond to his growing populist sentiment by making populist concessions. For instance Marke Rutte would have never been able to win if he didn’t adopt some of Wilders immigration positions. Also since Wilders party won so many seats other parties will have almost no choice but to work with them and make a coalition. So while the elections in the Netherlands didn’t end up in a total victory for “Trumpism” in Europe, and while it did give some a realistic slap to the face as to where the populist movement stands, it definitely is not the end all be all. Big elections in France, where Marine Le Pen keeps the hard right anti-immigration fight alive, and Germany where once untouchable Angela Merkel faces stiff questions about her liberal immigration policy are to be held next month, which figures to be the major culmination of “Trumpism” in Europe for this election cycle.
What the Dutch Elections Mean for “Trumpism” in Europe