Elections in the Netherlands are rarely watched so closely by the international community, but given the recent global surge in populist movements, all eyes were on how the far-right, anti-immigrant party of Geert Wilders would fare. Despite fears that his Freedom Party would get close to a majority of seats, they instead were soundly defeated and put into a distant second place with 20 seats.
Rutte’s victory was met with immediate relief from many European capitals. French President François Hollande called it “a clear victory against extremism.” A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it a “great result.”
But despite the defeat of an extremist, the election also showed huge losses for center-left. Speaking with Express (before the election), lawyer Robert Amsterdam comments on how politicians like Wilders have been able to “weaponize” political correctness to fragment the left. An excerpt below:
Mr Amsterdam, an international lawyer with 35 years experience working on high-profile cases, says populism is on the rise because of a rejection of “cosmopolitanism”.
He said: “The rise of nationalist populism in Europe highlights the identity crisis faced by centre and centre-left parties across a number of countries as they lose touch with their natural base of middle and lower income rural working voters.
“It’s clear that Geert Wilders and other anti-immigrant nationalists in Europe feel emboldened by the US election outcome and, in some cases, have been seen to be financially or strategically supported by Russia.
“These hard right parties are quickly making inroads among voters more traditionally associated with social democratic movements, capitalising on fears of immigration, terrorism, and a rejection of liberal cosmopolitanism.”
Mr Amsterdam went on to say Mr Wilders’ success is in part down to a lack of strategic skills from the Labour party in reaching their core audience.
He added: “In many cases the left has made a tactical mistake by concentrating on interests rather than culture, shackled by political correctness, while their failure to successfully utilise digital technology in the same way the populist parties have has left them outmanoeuvred.
“Nativist populist parties in Europe have been successful in taking away voters from the left because they are largely borrowing their statist economic ideology, but combining it with hard line anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism positions.
“At some point, the European left abandoned its base among labour unions and got stuck in the abstractions of the university campus and the open cosmopolitanism of diverse urban culture. When people are worried about their jobs or panicked about terrorist attacks.
“In response, divisive populists like Geert Wilders have weaponised political correctness.”