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.
Holland’s ruling party has won the recent parliamentary election, having adopted elements of the far-right agenda but will face problems forming a coalition government, a Valdai Club expert believes.
“What Prime Minister Rutte called ‘the wrong kind of populism’ has not won,” Tony van der Togt, Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, said Thursday via video link from The Hague during an expert discussion at the Valdai Club.
The Party for Freedom, or the PVV headed by nationalist Geert Wilders came second in the election held on March 15, gaining 20 seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament.
According to van der Togt, the question now is what parties will form the coalition.
“We’ll need four parties to have a stable majority in parliament. Prime Minister Rutte’s VVD will be in the lead. Most probably, CDA, the Christian Democrats, and D66 will join,” he said. “But who will be the fourth party in government? It may be the Greens, who also picked up a lot of seats, or they may try to form a government more to the right, including Christian parties.”
There will be problems with Christian parties like ChristenUnie on issues such as euthanasia legislation, which D66 wants and Christians are very much against, van der Togt added.
One of the key election outcomes is the fragmentation of the political system, he said: “It will take quite a while before we have a stable government. It can take some months to form a coalition which has a clear majority in the second chamber and can also count on a majority in the Senate.”
Another important outcome is the end of search for extreme populism, van der Togt added. “Wilders has been with us for some time, so people got used to his rhetoric,” he said. As a result, a large part of the electorate believes he has no solutions.
The Trump factor may have contributed to the victory of Rutte’s People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, van der Togt said. “Everybody has been seeing what chaos is still in Washington. People may have come to the conclusion: We don’t want a Trump in the Netherlands because he has no solutions” and voted for the mainstream conservative VVD.
Still, Rutte has been able to capitalize on the rise of nationalist sentiments, becoming tougher on Europe and migration, the expert stressed.
“Christian Democrats also tend to be more populist, nationalist, patriotic. They somehow play to populist audiences and have been doing so in the campaign. It partly explains their result,” he said.
The escalation of tensions with Turkey over the refusal of Dutch authorities to let Turkish officials campaign for amending the nation’s constitution on Dutch soil also helped Rutte’s party garner support and steal the show from Wilders’ Party for Freedom.
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“The strong stance of the government helped Rutte and he took away some of the seats that would have otherwise gone to Wilders. This developed into a kind of clash in which the main question was: Are we still the boss in our own country or can Erdogan do here whatever he wants?” van der Togt added.
Despite the relative loss of the far-right forces, issues of migration and identity will remain on the agenda, he added. The Dutch government did not want the situation to become aggravated, but once it escalated into such a clash, it took a strong stance. Now, it is trying to de-escalate tensions, but the Constitutional Amendment campaign in Turkey will last for another month and the showdown can continue.
The Denk (Think!) party, which draws it support from the mainly pro-Erdogan Turkish community, got three seats in the parliament, van der Togt said. “In some bigger cities [they had] better results than the Labour party. This is another sign that some of the underlying problems are not solved, even though populists have not won,” he said. This may lead to more tensions with Turkey and surely means that the debate about dual nationality and dual loyalty will continue, van der Togt concluded.