Déjà vu in the Netherlands – Dutch Elections Today

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Early voters cast their ballots for the general election in The Hague, Netherlands. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

 

The Dutch Election for Prime Minister will be held today, and the major issues that have riled the Dutch electorate speak to the uncanny wave of populism that has swept several Democratic, Western nations. First, the United Kingdom voted in favor of a referendum to withdraw from the European Union; then, the United States elected Donald Trump president. Now, the French and Dutch election seasons seem to mirror the U.S. election and the British referendum vote on the basis of populism and immigration rhetoric.

The primary issues on each of the aforementioned political stages are the same as those on which the Dutch election currently hinges. Immigration is a massive issue in the Netherlands much like it is in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The concern among citizens, however, changes from one side of the argument to the other much like the conversation Stateside between Republicans and Democrats. Additionally, the right wing is predominately rallying behind Geert Wilders who has been dubbed the “Dutch Trump” or “the Donald Trump of Holland.” He is known for a highly controversial, 2008 film entitled, Fitna, which made significant ripples on the Internet for splicing passages of the Quran with the aftermath of terrorist attacks.

Wilders is known for much more than a propaganda film now, however. In 2017, he is the leader of the Freedom Party and the formidable opposition of incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Wilders currently campaigns on anti-immigration promises with which many Dutch citizens agree. He aims to eliminate the burqa, imprison Muslims whether they’ve committed a crime or not, shut down all mosques, and cease all immigration from Muslim-majority nations in a manner not dissimilar from President Trump’s initial Muslim ban.

Additionally, Wilders has extended the campaign promise that he will present a referendum on the Netherlands’ E.U. membership. Prime Minister Rutte opposes this, though not as hard and steadfastly as his supporters might have expected a year ago. He has publicly stated that the original idea of the European Union is “dead,” but he is unwilling to withdraw from the union. Rutte has also said of immigrants who do not culturally assimilate that they must “behave normally or go away.” These statements bring some of his supporters to believe that he has pivoted more toward the position of a centrist despite having initially been elected as a leader of the left wing.

The Prime Minister banks on being able to win on the merits of the Dutch economy, which is projected by the European Commission to experience 2% growth this year, which represents greater economic stability than the E.U. as a whole. The Dutch economy even now, in fact, is among the most robust in Europe. Moreover, Rutte is also banking on the Dutch election process ensuring that Wilders cannot simply become Prime Minister; rather, the best-case scenario for Wilders is that Parliament extends to him the opportunity to form a coalition with other parties that support him. In Dutch elections, this can often be the case even when a challenging candidate gets more votes than an incumbent. This may prove to be the distinguishing characteristic between Wilders and Trump.