A sigh of relief in Europe after Rutte defeats Wilder in Dutch elections

The first results from the Dutch parliamentary elections after almost all votes have been counted showed that the centre-right liberal party (VVD) of Prime Minister Mark Rutte emerged in the lead in the race with 33 seats with his main opponent, the far-right party (PVV) of Geert Wilder falling far behind with 20 seats. Rutte however might have some problems in forming a new government in the Dutch fragmented political system since both his own party and in particular his current coalition partner, the centre-left labour party (PvdA), lost seats. Together they had small majority of 79 seats in the parliament which is made up of 150 seats.

Four or five parties may be necessary to compose the more than 75 seats needed in the Parliament.

However, fears that Wilder would double his current number of seats and become the biggest party did not come true. Despite the “intervention” of Turkey in the Dutch elections, Wilder’s extreme anti-Muslim, anti-immigration and anti-EU message did not get the support of the Dutch people although he increased his number of seats from 15 to 20.

If his party – in fact a one-person party with himself as the only member – would have emerged as the biggest party, it would have signaled that other similar parties might be able to win ground in the following elections in France, Germany and Italy. “If The Netherlands succumbs,” as Roger Cohen wrote in The New York Times (15 March), “France cannot be far behind”.

The European political establishment reacted positive to the results of the Dutch elections. The results are seen as as an encouraging signal for Europe as it prepares for the elections in France and Germany where the Eurosceptic parties are scoring points.

The Belgian Prime Minister personally congratulated Mark Rutte in the evening. The German Chancellor did the same by telephone. "I look forward to continuing to cooperate as friends, neighbors and Europeans," Angela Merkel told Mark Rutte.

The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed Rutte’s "clear victory", observing with satisfaction that it was a “vote for Europe and a vote against extremists".

In France, too, the message of the Dutch has been interpreted from the European angle. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated that the rise of the extreme right was "stopped" in the elections in the Netherlands, seeing the results as an expression for a "stronger Europe".

In Italy, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni welcomed a "no to Nexit". "The anti-EU right lost the elections in the Netherlands," he wrote on social media.

The Brussels Times

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