The Dutch Election Was a Bellwether, and Populism Lost

'We want to stick to the course we have—safe and stable and prosperous'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 16, 2017 12:36 AM CDT
Dutch PM Defeats Anti-Islam Leader
Geert Wilders casts his vote for the Dutch general election in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, March 15, 2017.    (Peter Dejong)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday claimed a dominating parliamentary election victory over anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, who failed the year's first litmus test for populism in Europe. The main exit poll suggested Rutte's party won 31 seats in the 150-member legislature, 12 more than Wilders' party, which shared second place with two other parties, the AP reports. Following Britain's vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's election as US president, "the Netherlands said, 'Whoa! Stop!' to the wrong kind of populism," said Rutte, who is now poised for a third term as prime minister. "We want to stick to the course we have—safe and stable and prosperous," he added.

Wilders had insisted that whatever the result of the election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent aren't going away. "Rutte has not seen the back of me!!" Wilders tweeted after the exit poll results had sunk in. Both France and Germany have elections this year in which far-right candidates and parties are hoping to make an impact. "Wilders could not win the election," German socialist leader Martin Schulz tweeted. "I am relieved, but we need to continue to fight for an open and free Europe." In a subplot of the elections, the Green Left party scored a historic victory, turning it into the largest party on the left wing of Dutch politics for the first time. (Rutte may have been helped by the hard line he took in a dispute with Turkey.)

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