In 2016, the world experienced a political phenomenon; for some, it caused unprecedented amounts of fear, for others, hope and optimism. Populism took the world by storm, once you had a support base, nothing could stop it, no fact or figure could topple the power of the hope that these figures created. Abraham Lincoln once said, ' the power of hope upon human exertion, and happiness is wonderful'. How true, in 2016, this appeared to be, if you consider 'wonderful' to mean a demonstration of the power of individual people, people who consider themselves ignored by the elite, to rise up and make their voices heard. The world again, in 2017, was preparing itself for yet further continuations of this epidemic, first in the Netherlands, and the believed high support for Geert Wilders and his anti – Islam, Eurosceptic campaign. But does his victory allow for a sigh of relief for the world's politicians, in particular Angela Merkel, or does the high amount of support he was able to rally, create signals for further anticipation for the future of politics as we know it?
Angela Merkel publically hailed the election as a 'good day for democracy'; 'good' not being the strongest of adjectives, but really, for any centrist politician, good is the best way to describe it, to say it was 'great', is just pure hyperbole. While I'm sure Europe will gloss this victory over as an increased mandate for their current political positions, the truth remains that Wilders and the Party for Freedom (PVV) , were able to claim 13% of the vote, 20 of the 150 seats in the Dutch House of Representatives. They also critically wounded the support of Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, with his Centre- Right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) losing 8 seats and 5% of the vote. Whilst being a relatively small number, that 5% is significant, considering they only won by 8%, and the difference between second and fourth place was just 1.1%.
That said, there has been much speculation regarding the impact of the Dutch – Turkish diplomatic incident, in which Turkish President Recep Erdoğan called the Dutch 'fascists' and questioned the 'remnants of Nazism' in Dutch society. Is it likely, therefore, that this boosted the support of a more liberal Rutte, a damaged the campaign of Wilders? It is highly likely, that in a country that itself had witnessed the true horrors of Nazism in its streets, that this flashback to those days, had scared people away from voting for a far right candidate, such as Wilders. Yet I would say it's a minor excuse for the loss of victory for Wilders, it's doubtful that this event led to Wilders losing 5 or 6% of the vote, and thus the election, maybe at max, this led to him losing 1 or 2 seats. After all, the rhetoric of calling someone a 'Nazi' or 'Hitler – like' , or any form of scaremongering played little significance in Brexit or Trump's election, even accusations of rape little hindered Trump. I expect the same would be true for the Freedom Party.
But now to the point, is this a slap in the face for far right Politics, or is it just a moment of little relief for liberalism and the left wing? For me, the latter is the truth. Yes it is true that Wilders lost while Trump won, but still for many the haunt of the alt right remains ever present. They came second, and for a politician with the values of Wilders to get such support in a country that seems to have such an endearment with liberalism, must surely be a huge worry for Mark Rutte, and every other liberal.
The Dutch Election - A slap in the Face for Far Right Politics Reviewed by Student Voices on 19:47 Rating: