The Far Right Just Took a Big Hit

March 16th 2017

Thor Benson

All eyes were on the Netherlands Wednesday, with the world watching to see if the Dutch would vote in far-right candidate Geert Wilders or reelect Prime Minister Mark Rutte, of the more centrist People's Party for Freedom and Democracy.

Rutte staved off the challenge from Wilders and was ultimately victorious. "This night is a night for the Netherlands -- after Brexit, after the American elections -- where we said stop it, stop it to the wrong kind of populism," Rutte said, according to CNN.

"The result confirmed Wilders as a powerful voice on immigration in the Netherlands. But it would leave in place Prime Minister Mark Rutte and do little to alter the fundamental dynamic in a country unhappy with the status quo but deeply divided among many political parties," the Washington Post reports.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, Reuters reported that Rutte's party is predicted to take 33 seats. WIlders' far-right party appeared to tie with the conservative Christian Democratic Appeal and the Democrats 66 party, which is pro-European and center-left on the political spectrum: Each received 19 seats in Parliament.

mark rutte

Due to fears of hacking, ballots will be counted by hand. "In what the Dutch are calling the 'four-eyes principle,' each vote will be counted and verified by two people at the polling station," the The New York Times reported. "Tallies will then be recorded by hand and initially sent by text message to the municipality. The ballots and tally sheets will then be physically delivered to municipal voting centers so that the counts can be double-checked and verified."

Why the outcome matters:

The election has drawn attention for mirroring aspects of the 2016 presidential election in the United States, as well as the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, with speculation over whether the Dutch would vote for a Trump-esque candidate like Wilders, who has denounced the entire religion of Islam and has been described as a white nationalist, or to continue under Rutte's stewardship.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) recently aligned himself with Wilders in a tweet that was labeled as espousing white-supremacist rhetoric, when he said that he agreed with Wilders that the United States could not "restore" itself using "somebody else's babies," seemingly implying immigrant babies or refugee babies.

Geert Wilders has rejected the comparisons to the Donald Trump, saying he's been politically active for much longer than the U.S. president, Fox News reporter Greg Palkot wrote in a tweet.

The Dutch vote has been seen as a potential harbinger for France and Germany's elections, slated for April and September respectively, which feature far-right nationalist candidates on the ballot.

"We have the upcoming French and German elections. And this is a chance for a big democracy like the Netherlands to make a point — to stop this toppling over of the domino stones of the wrong sort of populism," Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after voting on Wednesday.

Far-right parties have gained traction in Europe in the wake of growing anxieties over terrorist attacks in recent years. A Pew survey from last year found a majority of citizens from European Union countries worry that accepting refugees makes terrorist attacks more likely, and it found that citizens who generally dislike Islam tend to dislike refugees.

However, given Wilder's loss at the polls it would appear that these anxieties have not translated to the ballot box.