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Europe Hails Dutch Election Result as Good for EU, Blow to Populism

© REUTERS / Fabrizio BenschPeople hold placards to support the election results in the Netherlands during a demonstration in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, March 16, 2017.
People hold placards to support the election results in the Netherlands during a demonstration in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, March 16, 2017. - Sputnik International
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The fact that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's center-right party has seen off the anti-EU, anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders - albeit with a reduced majority - in the Netherlands general election has been greeted with relief in Europe's capitals.

Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) took 21.2 percent of the vote, with Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) taking 13.1, but adding five more seats to its tally. Now the horse trading begins on forming a coalition.

© REUTERS / Cris Toala OlivaresBallots are emptied for counting as polling stations close in The Hague, Netherlands, March 15, 2017.
Ballots are emptied for counting as polling stations close in The Hague, Netherlands, March 15, 2017. - Sputnik International
Ballots are emptied for counting as polling stations close in The Hague, Netherlands, March 15, 2017.

However, the result has brought a sigh of relief across Europe, as many had feared a Brexit-style backlash against the pro-EU establishment amid growing Islamophobia, caused by the migrant crisis and recent terrorist attacks.

​Twitter: "Super proud of all our voters, more than 1 million Dutch! Thanks! 12 years after it was founded PVV is the 2nd position of NL! Awesome!!"

Wilders played his anti-EU and anti-Islam cards right from the outset, garnering increased support throughout the campaign. However, the diplomatic spat with Turkey — over rallies in the Netherlands by Turkish citizens in support of controversial constitution changes in Turkey — has seen Rutte's political worth rise, as he put up a strong defense against Ankara.

© REUTERS / Michael KoorenDutch far right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders campaigns for the 2017 Dutch election in Spijkenisse, a suburb of Rotterdam, Netherlands, February 18, 2017.
Dutch far right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders campaigns for the 2017 Dutch election in Spijkenisse, a suburb of Rotterdam, Netherlands, February 18, 2017. - Sputnik International
Dutch far right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders campaigns for the 2017 Dutch election in Spijkenisse, a suburb of Rotterdam, Netherlands, February 18, 2017.

There are elections in France, April and May, as well as in Germany, September, with both countries experiencing a rise in nationalism. Marine Le Pen's Front National Party in France currently is currently top polling at 26.5 percent, according to IfoP-Fiducial.

"The Netherlands is showing us that a breakthrough for the extreme right is not a foregone conclusion and that progressives are gaining momentum," said French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who is expected to face Le Pen in the second round of voting, May 7.

Meanwhile, Germany's right-wing Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) is third in the polls, on 11.5 percent, according to INSA, riding on a wave of Islamophobia and nationalism.

"The Netherlands are our partners, friends, neighbors. Therefore, I was very happy that a high turnout led to a very pro-European result, a clear signal," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will run for re-election in September.

Rutte's campaign was boosted by his sense of statesmanship and defense of the Netherlands in the latest row with Turkey.

© AP Photo / Patrick PostDutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gives 'high five' to children after casting his vote for the Dutch general election in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gives 'high five' to children after casting his vote for the Dutch general election in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - Sputnik International
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gives 'high five' to children after casting his vote for the Dutch general election in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Relations between the two nations have taken a swift turn for the worse ahead of the referendum in Turkey, April 16, which could give enormous powers to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — increasing his presidential responsibilities and grip on the country.

Turkish and EU flags - Sputnik International
Over 60% of Germans Support End of Turkey-EU Accession Talks - Poll

The amendments to the constitution include the introduction of an executive presidency that would replace the existing parliamentary system of government and the abolition of the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Dutch result is being taken as a sign that the rise in nationalism throughout Europe may not necessarily result in a lurch to anti-EU right wing parties seizing power, destabilizing the EU.

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