A slap in the face for right-wing populists?

Many journalists have their doubts about whether the big sigh of relief after the Dutch elections is justified, and warn liberal society not to lapse into a false sense of security after the party of xenophobe Geert Wilders fared less well than expected in the Dutch parliamentary elections. Others see contradictions in the right-wing populists' behaviour.

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El País (ES) / 20 March 2017

EU enemies mired in contradictions

With their hostility towards Europe the right-wing populists are achieving precisely the opposite of what they hope for, El País writes commenting on the Brexit row:

“A major paradox: anti-Europeanism is only relevant because it attacks Europe, because it joins forces against Europe, because it needs Europe. Its negativism reaffirms that which it claims to negate. By the mere fact of its coordinated existence it demonstrates the relevance of what it claims to combat: Europe. … And now, thanks to the UK, we are discovering more. We are learning how anti-Europeanism destroys that which it claims to save, national identity. When Scotland, Northern Ireland and even Gibraltar rebel as Europeans against Theresa May, they are showing that human identity is not written in stone but that it undergoes changes and transformations; that forty years of co-sovereignty expand our spiritual horizon and transform a community's mentality. And that in this way as soon as the European mould is broken the sub-mould of the nation-state also breaks.”

RTV Slovenija (SI) / 18 March 2017

Populists not yet defeated

The fact that Geert Wilders didn't win the Dutch elections this year doesn't mean populists won't emerge victorious in the near future, Matjaž Trošt writes on the website of RTV Slovenija:

“If Geert Wilders had won the elections in the Netherlands, no doubt some would already be tempted to start dismantling the word 'Union'. That leaves us with a paradox. The fact that Geert Wilders didn't manage a surprise victory like that of Donald Trump doesn't mean that the EU is any less endangered, or that its future is any more clear. Nor does it mean that Marine Le Pen or some other contender won't win either. Maybe not this year, maybe not until next year, or a few years down the road. But those who make too much of the victory over populism forget that one swallow doesn't make a summer.”

Dienas Bizness (LV) / 19 March 2017

Deceptive peace

There is no reason for euphoria despite the election results, Dienas bizness believes:

“Not all supporters of the far-right are radical fascists. Rather they tend to be people who feel insecure in the face of today's challenges. ... Europe's politicians should see the EU as a functional and viable project. Unfortunately so far the Europeans have merely demonstrated the sort of lethargic peaceableness and indomitable complacency which led them to ignore the problems in the past. Covering your eyes with your hands like a child doesn't make you invisible. Just because we don't see the problems doesn't mean they don't exist. And unfortunately in the shadow of these problems radical revolutions with painful consequences are brewing.”

De Telegraaf (NL) / 17 March 2017

Applause just shows naivety

Forgetting Wilders' voters out of a sense of relief would be a fatal mistake, columnist Nausicaa Merbe writes in De Telegraaf:

“Europe's applause for the Netherlands can also be seen as a sign of naivety. Because populism is far from beaten in Europe. And our moderate election result should not be taken as a mandate for Brussels to stop worrying about anti-European sentiment. Let's not forget: the PVV actually gained seats. The Forum for Democracy, which wants the Nexit, has made it into parliament with two representatives. Many voters don't feel at home either in the EU or in a multicultural Netherlands. Their worries are just as important as those of the voters who are now being admired from all sides.”

La Croix (FR) / 16 March 2017

Counteract sense of insecurity

The fears of those who vote for Wilders and his ilk must be taken seriously if we want to prevent far-right parties from entering government in the future, La Croix advises:

“Geert Wilders is not wrong when he says: 'Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back in the bottle.' His ideas have become part and parcel of public debate, where they occupy an important place. Consequently it would be wrong to breathe a sigh of relief and go back to business as usual. The concerns voiced by those who vote for Geert Wilders and the Front National in France must be taken into consideration. The sense of insecurity - whether economic, social or cultural - on the part of many voters demand a serious reaction if we want to prevent extremists from winning the next time around in the Netherlands or elsewhere.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) / 16 March 2017

Simply stopping populists is no strategy

Putting a stop to the rise of the populists doesn't go far enough, writes Gość Niedzielny, urging the EU to finally tackle its problems:

“The highest voter turnout in 30 years may be an indication that the Dutch mobilised en masse against Wilders. But a strategy aimed purely at stopping Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen from coming to power is very weak. Particularly if as in this case only extremely stupid campaign slogans are used. The populists' defeat is being attributed to the diplomatic crisis with Turkey. However, while it's easy to prevent Turkish politicians from entering the country or to talk of a multi-speed Europe, reforming the Eurozone or integrating migrants is far more difficult.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) / 17 March 2017

Don't rejoice too soon

The enormous euphoria after the Dutch parliamentary elections also surprises Helsingin Sanomat:

“Brexit, Donald Trump's election and the surge in xenophobic nationalism in various countries caused the proponents of liberal European democracy to worry too much about the potential impact on the Dutch elections. And then straight after the elections, once the danger had been averted, the election results elicited an exaggerated sense of relief. The elections in the Netherlands may prove to be the turning point for Wilders' brand of uncompromising nationalist populism in Europe, but we won't be able to tell for some time yet. After the Netherlands attention is turning to France and how the nationalist populist Marine Le Pen performs in the French presidential elections.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) / 16 March 2017

Thank you for this excellent lesson

One cannot be thankful enough for what the Dutch voters have shown Europe, La Libre Belgique writes in delight:

“Paradoxically, the Dutch prime minister may well have benefited from the attacks of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. ... Erdoğan gave the Dutch a foretaste of what a simple, arrogant, navel-gazing populist government could look like. Our neighbours have said no to such excesses, no to hatred, no to oversimplified answers and to a future without prospects. ... Such a lesson in democracy warms the heart. Thanks to this 'oranje' wave, Europe has unflinchingly qualified for the semifinals. The next match will take place in France. This latest victory may not guarantee a success in April but it certainly feels good. Dear neighbours, thank you for this lesson and the feeling of springtime it brings. Today will be a wonderful day.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) / 16 March 2017

The Dutch don't want a hue and cry

The Dutch have roundly rejected Wilders and his ideas, columnist Tom-Jan Meeus writes in NRC Handelsblad:

“Mark Rutte has done a very good job. One should not forget that just two months ago his rival Wilders was leading by a good five percent in the polls. ... Then it became clear that Wilders simply couldn't find a way out of the impasse. He made strange tactical mistakes and let much of the election campaign slip by without making use of it. The media gave a voice to all kinds of PVV voters even though it was clear that 2017 is marked not by a patriotic but by an 'old-Dutch' spring: a good 80 percent of the population doesn't want a hue and cry, let alone much ado about anger.”

Sme (SK) / 16 March 2017

Erdoğan, Brexit and Trump scared voters

The Dutch have withstood the pressure of populism, writes Sme with a sigh of relief, discerning the following reasons for the results:

“First there's the row with Turkey: Prime Minister Mark Rutte prevented two Turkish ministers from mobilising crowds to strengthen Erdoğan's position ahead of the referendum. Many thought Wilders would benefit from that move, but the real winner of the conflict was Rutte. For 34 percent of the voters his reaction decided how they voted. Secondly Wilders' open support for US President Trump backfired on him. The latter's weak performance so far had a negative impact on Wilders' chances. Finally there's the Brexit: when the British voted to exit the EU the Netherlands was seen as the next in line. Wilders was one of the loudest proponents for leaving the EU too. But the chaos after the Breixt referendum and the UK's uncertain future have increased the EU's popularity in the Netherlands.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) / 16 March 2017

Wilders will still prevail

For Corriere del Ticino, on the other hand, the danger posed by right-wing populism has by no means been banished:

“The extent to which Dutch politics has been 'Wilderised' must not be underestimated. Wilders' far right party could continue to cast its spell on voters of a new country that is no longer the country of tolerance we once knew. The Netherlands has become a country that sees the answers of the traditional parties to issues like the refugee crisis and EU integration as inadequate. In particular we must not overlook the fact that regardless of his ability and real potential to govern, Wilders will continue to be the prototype of the post-political party - without a base, without members, without a programme and without an infrastructure. A party which, thanks to its informal ties to other ultra-nationalist leading forces in Europe, continues to move forwards as a group.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) / 15 March 2017

Only a social Europe can stop right-wing populism

European politics must take a new direction, Catelene Passchier, Vice President of the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions (FNV), and Reiner Hoffmann, President of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB), write in a guest commentary for Der Tagesspiegel:

“What we need now is clear-cut social progress and a set of binding, truly efficient social rights. In addition Europe needs a strong investment programme in education, infrastructure, its status as an industrial hub and the European energy transition. That requires a policy that puts an end to tax dumping. We do not have much time to save Europe. The European member states threaten to revert to national disunity and protectionism if the right-wing populists and enemies of European integration are not stopped. ... The French will vote in April, Germany will vote this autumn. It is the duty of all democratic parties in Europe to act. Now.”

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