Dutch voters turned out in force to back pro-European parties and help Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals easily beat off an election challenge by the anti-Islam Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, drawing a line in the sand over the spread of populism.
With 93 percent of votes counted by the early hours of Thursday, the Liberal Party was forecast to take 33 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament to 20 seats for the Freedom Party. The Christian Democrats and the centrist D66 party were both one seat behind Wilders. Informal talks on forming a coalition will start later on Thursday and may take months, as is commonplace in the Netherlands.
The outcome was worse than opinion polls had suggested for Wilders, representing a rejection of his platform of pulling the Netherlands out of the European Union, abandoning the euro, closing Dutch borders and stopping all immigration by Muslims. It suggests that the nationalist sentiment that prompted the U.K.’s Brexit vote and won Donald Trump the White House will struggle to secure as big a foothold in Europe’s core.
“Dutch voters rejected populism and voted for Europe,” said Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It seems like Rutte’s appeal for a ‘centrist fightback against Trump and Brexit’ was heard.”
The euro climbed to the highest level in more than a month on the result, which was hailed by leaders across Europe. Kirkegaard said that Rutte will probably stay on as premier, noting that the Christian Democrats and D66 are both “strongly pro-European.”
SOURCE: Corina Ruhe, Anne Van Der Schoot, and Joost Akkermans