Far Right Falls Short

Max Wagner '19
Guest Columnist

2016 ended not with a whimper, but with a bang. It was the year the global Leftism saw two significant defeats with the approval of Brexit and the election of President Trump; it also set the stage for 2017. 2016 did not begin in a way that signaled what would happen. As the Leftist Establishment looked forward they liked their prospects for the next two years: five elections they expected to win, beginning with the two elections about which they felt most comfortable: Brexit and the U.S. Presidential Election. The Leftist Establishment looked on in horror as first, the British demanded their independence from an unelected council of oligarchs in Brussels, and then they could not believe their eyes as the second of the five pins fell over, with the election of President Trump. President Trump’s election forced them to realize there is a popular unrest across the West, directed at them. It was with newfound urgency the world turned its eyes toward the Dutch general election for control of the 150-seat Dutch House of Representatives.

Coming into the election, the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) held the largest number of seats but did not command a majority of the seats in the House.[1] The party with the second most seats coming into the election was the center-left Labor Party (PvdA).

The Dutch people voted on Wednesday; Geert Wilders, the far-right candidate of the Party for Freedom (PVV), lost to current Prime Minister Mark Rutte, leader of VVD. PVV came in second, receiving 13% of the vote, gaining five seats for a total of twenty, compared to VVD’s 21%, losing eight seats for a total of thirty-three. The PvdA, however, fell from second to seventh, from 24.8% to 5.7%, and from thirty-eight seats to nine (a loss of seats).

The Left was quick to announce a victory. The Dutch did what Britain and America could not; the wave of populism has broken! The tide is being rolled back![2] Right?! Wrong.

The Left is thrilled that Wilders will not become the new Prime Minister, as well they should be . . . unless they paid attention to the news that was coming out of the Netherlands for the last several weeks. First, it was clear that whether PVV or VVD won the election, the other party was going to take second place.[3] Rutte has also been very vocal that he would not work with Wilders to form a coalition government, and other parties have also agreed not to work with Wilders.[4] This means that even if Wilders had won the election and become the largest party in Parliament, there was a good chance that Wilders would still not have become Prime Minister. Considering it a “win” because PVV did not become the largest party is missing the point. The important feature here is the significant movement for the party. The gains made by PVV are significant, and are ignored at great peril.

Taking this election as a complete win, and a sign that the anti-globalist, anti-Leftism sentiment would be a larger mistake than thinking Brexit was a fluke. Thinking anything other than that there is a long hard fought road ahead is what will lead to President Le Pen, and a toppling of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

There are also those on the Left lamenting that Prime Minister Rutte had to resort such gross tactics as defending his country’s sovereignty against Turkey, and promising a stronger immigration policy.[5] Some people call this listening to the concerns of the people, The Guardian calls it racism.

Those who are perturbed by the move right by Rutte to secure his base and maintain his party’s standing should get used to it, or make their peace with President Le Pen, and former Chancellor Merkel. Merkel has already pivoted to the right to secure her base ahead of the election.[6] Merkel and Rutte, while not solving the problem of far-right nationalism, have taken the first step: listening to the disenchanted. These are people who have been hurt and feel abandoned. When a voice comes to represent them, they cling to it. Sometimes that voice also brings along things they don’t want.[7] Wilders is a great example of this. While there are riots across Europe, other Western leaders are silent. While there is an enormous culture clash, anyone caught up in it who dares to speak is branded a racist. These people want their concerns heard. It is this recognition of their problems that drives the PVV. When Prime Minister Rutte pivoted to the right, and started making it clear that he was willing to listen, the wind fell from Wilders’ sail, though not entirely. This is the tactic that center-right candidates will need to win the next two elections: listening to the people. While The Guardian will lament this act of democracy, it is the only way to prevent the dangers that will accompany the far-right, like Wilders.[8]



[1] The elections are proportional, meaning the percent of the vote received for a party is the percent of seats in Parliament the party receives. There has never been a single party with a majority.
[2] #rolltide
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_Dutch_general_election,_2017
[4] http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/01/vvd-leader-mark-rutte-says-zero-chance-of-coalition-with-geert-wilders/
[5] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/17/geert-wilders-racism-netherlands-far-right
[6] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/dec/14/angela-merkel-turns-on-refugees-as-backlash-boosts/
[7] http://www.businessinsider.com/geert-wilders-pvv-manifesto-2017-2
There is truly terrifying authoritarian rhetoric in this extensive 1 page manifesto.
[8] Seriously, read the manifesto…