Will the Rise of Populism Influence Future Political Systems?

16.03.2017

Parties that are more responsible will come to power, with serious programs than that of Holland’s Geert Wilders, but these programs may themselves include some provisions previously considered exclusive to the right-wing radicals.

On March 16, the Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall hosted an expert discussion on the rising popularity of right-wing parties in the EU states, titled “Elections in the Netherlands: A Trial for Right-Wing Forces and EU Foreign Policy.”

Opening the discussion, Fyodor Lukyanov, Valdai Club Academic Director, noted that the election in the Netherlands opened a season of important elections in Europe, which is why a lot of attention is attached to it. According to Lukyanov, everyone is concerned how the Dutch election will influence future elections in France and Germany, and whether far-right forces will be successful in these countries. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party received 20 of 150 parliamentary seats, second to the ruling People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, headed by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Tony van der Togt, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations, speaking from The Hague via linkup, noted that the result of the election was the fragmentation of the political arena. Creating a coalition government will be very difficult.

“It will take quite a while before we have a stable government,” he said.

Dual Loyalty to Remain an Issue in Holland, Despite Far-Right’s Loss Tony van der Togt
Despite the relative loss of the far-right forces, issues of migration and identity will remain on the Dutch political agenda, Valdai Club expert Tony van der Togt believes. Some of the underlying problems are not solved, even though populists have not won.

According to van der Togt, the Freedom Party’s poor performance (despite its second place it will be unable to take part in the cabinet as all other parties have refused to cooperate with it), is because the mainstream parties have in part taken the right-wing platform. Rutte has become tougher on the EU and migration and the same goes for the Christian Democrats, he said.

In addition, the success of the ruling party was facilitated by the diplomatic conflict between the Netherlands and Turkey, during which the government acted as a defender of European liberal values, intercepting the agenda of the ultra-right.

The Moscow correspondent for Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad Steven Derix devoted his speech to the problem of dual identity and dual loyalty of migrants, which came to the fore in the course of the confrontation with Turkey.

He acknowledged that despite some successful examples (like the Moroccan girls who do well in universities), there are problems with integration of immigrants. This is especially true for those who came to the country in the 1960s and 1970s from Turkey, Morocco and a number of other countries to fill the shortage of labour, and their descendants. The immigrants from the former colonies of the Netherlands – Indonesia and Suriname – successfully managed to fit into the Dutch society, not least thanks to the knowledge of the language and culture of the former metropolis.

Pavel Shlykov, Dean of the Department of Middle Eastern History at the Institute of Asia and Africa, Lomonosov Moscow State University, talked about the relationship of Turkish immigrants with their historical homeland. According to him, Turkey actively works with the diaspora through the Presidency of Religious Affairs and currently, one of the goals of the Turkish policy towards compatriots living in Western Europe is fostering their Turkish, not European identity.

Returning to the results of the election in the Netherlands and summing up the discussion, Lukyanov noted that a populist outburst is a reaction to public problems, but does not describe how the political system will look in the future.

"Instead of these forces, there will be other, less provocative forces . . . that is, the mainstream itself will change," he said. Parties that are more responsible will come to power, with serious programs than that of Wilders, but these programs may themselves include some provisions previously considered exclusive to the right-wing radicals, Lukyanov believes.

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