The rise of right-wing parties in the Dutch elections brings to light long-running tensions around race and immigrationby Theodore Stone / March 22, 2018 / Leave a comment
The Netherlands prides itself as being synonymous with liberalism. To many, the term exemplifies the country’s social and political culture. Seen by many as the home of open-minded values and a leading light in the fight for social progress, the term “liberal” seems to sum up the country’s social and political culture.
Yet Wednesday’s municipal elections show a different story. Compare the above with the opening lines in the right-wing politician Geert Wilders’ latest video: “Islam is Terror. Islam is Misogyny.” Compare it with the campaign by the popular shock-blog GeenStijl’s, asking people to not “vote for the Muslim candidate” in an online poll for the country’s best councilor—and compare that with the racist abuse the candidate Ugbaad Kilincci had to experience during a campaign visit.
It seems that the liberal credentials that The Netherlands prides itself on may be wearing thin; the tolerance becoming complacent.
The signs have been there for over a decade. The Pim Fortuyn List (PFL), which rallied around the idea that Islam was incompatible with Dutch culture, stormed into Dutch politics in 2002, when, five days after the assassination of its leader Pim Fortuyn, it secured 17 per cent of the vote, 26 seats—and a coalition deal.
Openly gay, Fortuyn had argued that he was protecting tolerance, inspiring anti-immigration populism to start taking pages from liberalism. However, the party collapsed without him, and by 2003 it was in terminal decline.
Concerns grew in the 2017 elections that such an event may happen again, but whilst populism did once again emerge in second-place, it was with a lower vote share, fewer seats, and no place in government.
A year later, however, the fears have returned. Instead of Dutch nationalism going the way of UKIP, it has started reach record levels of popularity.
On Wednesday, the FvD gained three seats in the only city they ran in; Amsterdam, which was previously seen as immune to nativist charms. This might not seem like much—but they are now the most successful new party in Amsterdam in almost 50 years.
The PVV, meanwhile, made gains in several cities, including Rotterdam, Maastricht, and Enschede.
Both parties are anti-immigration and heavily Eurosceptic. Both have demanded policies such as hardline border control, and legislation such as a “Dutch Value Protection Act.”
Like the PFL, they see themselves as the ‘defenders…