Dutch Far-Right Suffers an Election Day Loss But Gains Support

After losing momentum during the last weeks of the election, the Party for Freedom (PVV), led by anti-immigration activist Geert Wilders, fell to second place behind the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), helmed by current Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Rutte received praise from several leaders from around the world regarding the defeat of populism. However, many analysts have said that the win by the VVD was actually due to the party co-opting several previously unorthodox ideas as their own. The result was a  subtle shifting of the platforms of the mainstream parties further right.

Center-right beats out far-right in Dutch elections.

Tough Campaign Forces Rutte to the Right

The VVD has called for residents to adopt “Dutch values”, without stressing exactly what those values are. Furthermore, some refugees are complaining about the administration. Protesters have been stressing the protection of civil rights during the campaign, but the status quo promotes human rights violations. The Dutch coalition system meant that the PVV could always have been easily be shunted into the opposition. Yet key questions about the need for assimilation have been dragged out into the open. Rutte was also pushed to deal forcefully with the Turkish attempts to campaign in the Netherlands regarding the upcoming referendum on giving President Recep Erdogan more power.

Winning Coalition Loses 37 Seats

Rutte won 33 seats, and will most likely be able to form the coalition needed to reach a ruling majority of 76 seats.  Still, his party actually lost 8 seats, while the PVV gained five seats. Given that the party is only 12 years old, 33 percent growth is above the norm, even if it did not live up to the hype. The main loser in the election was actually the Labour party, which had been expected to align with the VVD. The party, led by Lodewijk Asscher, went from 38 seats to an embarrassing 9 seats.

New Left-wing Party Comes into Power

The anti-populist GreenLeft party was the big winner, gaining 10 seats. The GreenLeft’s leader Jesse Klaver is nearly the complete opposite of Geert Wilders. The 30 year old is the son of a Morrocan Father and Indonesian mother. He supports immigration and a healthy social support system. Another ideology which received a lot of popular backing was the pro-EU camp. Dutch citizens are generally content to remain in the EU, and Wilders probably performed worse at the polls thanks to his threats against EU membership. In fact, it is likely that many of the votes gained by parties that supported the EU were taken from Labor, ironically making Rutte’s job of finding a stable partnership more difficult.

Refugees Skeptical of VVD Win

Pundits hailed the results of the Dutch election as a win for the country’s refugees. But many of the asylum seekers currently living in the Netherlands view the status quo with suspicion. Human rights advocates accuse The Netherlands of detaining refugees without a sufficient appeals process. Additionally, a number of asylum seekers are banned from participating in the workforce or from attending schools. On the other hand, they are clearly unable to return to their home countries. Organizations point to a recent statement by Prime Minister Rutte as an example of the Dutch view on immigration. Rutte noted to immigrants in an open letter published in January that “If you so fundamentally reject this country, then I’d prefer you to leave.”

Upcoming Elections Will Settle the Fate of European Populism

Political experts are still wary of declaring populism in Europe dead. There are still two more major elections this year, in France and in Germany. Italy could also move their elections up from their scheduled time next year. Each of these countries has a strong anti-immigrant faction that is polling well. In all three countries, the expectation is not that the far-right will win the campaign outright. Rather, the stance of candidates like France’s Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Beppe Grillo could push more mainstream parties further right, as happened in the Netherlands.

How Will the Dutch Election Results Affect Trading?

The win by the pro-EU VVD cements the status of the Netherlands as a major backbone of the European Union. The euro should go up, and the London FTSE should see a rise, due to more businesses feeling comfortable about exporting into the region. As is usually the case when the political situation is less volatile, gold prices will fall, at least until the next round of European elections.