Early reports are that incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte has defeated Wilders, by an unknown margin, although his Party for Freedom has gained parliamentary ground. A WaPo piece notes how Wilders’ voice may become more influential by losing, essentially because he has moved the Overton Window, and as an outsider can continue to harangue the political class.
… Wilders vowed to continue his fight.
“Rutte is far away from rid of me!!” Wilders wrote on Twitter shortly after the initial exit polls were released, embracing his role as more of a pest than a governing leader. Despite the disappointing result, he still gained seats, reconfirming his role as a thorn in the side of the nation’s mainstream leaders…
Wilders’s Party for Freedom was forecast to build slightly on its current 15 seats in the lower house of parliament, tying it with the centrist Democrats 66 party and the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal. The center-left Green-Left party, led by Jesse Klaver, a 30-year-old upstart who embraced Barack Obama-style campaign tactics, also appeared to do well, potentially quadrupling its seats.
“With Brexit and Trump and with the elections in France and Germany on their way, all those journalists we’ve spoken with in the last weeks wanted to know: Will populism break through in the Netherlands?” Klaver said at a jubilant evening rally. “This is the answer we have for Europe. Populism didn’t break through.”
Still, the likely formation of a broad, weak coalition across the political spectrum could give extra ammunition to Wilders even though he will be barred from power. Rutte has repeatedly said he would not work with the peroxide-haired firebrand…
“The key effect of it is international,” Cas Mudde, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia who focuses on political extremism in Europe. “It determines what issues we talk about and how we talk about them.” He said that mainstream Dutch political leaders would probably feel less pressure to take a hard line against immigration and may actually become significantly more moderate depending on the outcome of coalition negotiations…
The piece’s final two parapraphs are rather foreboding:
Many Wilders supporters said Wednesday that they resented that refugees who came to their country were provided housing and health care even as Dutch people struggled to make ends meet.
“I understand they don’t have anything, but I have to pay for all that,” said Bep van Beele, 66, who lives in the working-class Duindorp area of The Hague, a bastion of Wilders’s support. “It creates jealousy. There’s not much left for the Dutchman.”