A warning shot from the Netherlands?
Europe has its eyes fixed on the Netherlands, which inaugurates the super-election year 2017 today. How will the party of far-right candidate Geert Wilders fare, and what repercussions will the conflict between The Hague and Ankara have on the outcome? Whatever the answer, commentators believe the elections will send a strong signal to the entire continent.
The Dutch have always been trendsetters
The Netherlands has often set Europe on a new course in the past, El Mundo observes:
“The Netherlands was at the forefront of almost all European trends. It had its own wave of protests in 1966, two years before the May 1968 rebellion in Paris. Its Labour prime minister Wim Kok, elected in 1994, advocated the Third Wave long before Tony Blair or Gerhard Schröder discovered this path, and the Netherlands then reverted to a conservative course in 2002, long before the UK and Germany. And in 2005 the Dutch No to the EU constitution, along with that of the French, put an end to the dream of a more integrated EU. The main observers now fear that the Netherlands could once again give the alarm signal, and the Politico website - one of the most influential media outlets in European politics - has described Wilders as the inventor of Trumpism. His manifesto fits on a single page and he avoided public debates until Monday.”
Wilders could trigger domino effect
This evening we will see just how Islamophobic Europe has become, Milliyet predicts:
“When the Dutch go to the polls today, they'll be undergoing an important test not just for themselves but for all of Europe. Unfortunately the Netherlands has recently become one of the focal points of the ultra-nationalist, racist, xenophobic (and now also Islamophobic and Turkophobic) wind currently blowing across Europe. Geert Wilders is now one of the most prominent figures on the far right. If his PVV party emerges as the winner from the elections, this will be seen as a victory for fascism in the Netherlands and Europe and set off a domino effect in France and Germany, where elections are also soon to take place.”
Will the centre parties remain a safe refuge?
The people will take their emotions with them into the polling booths, De Standaard warns:
“What will voters do with their fears, dissatisfaction and anger when casting their ballots? Will they still want to send a strong signal of rejection or will they prefer to seek refuge in the safe centre? ... The decisive political signal will be the results obtained by the Liberal and Christian Democratic parties, which have shifted markedly to the right both in their messages and in their actions during the election campaign. Will this strategy enable them to take the wind out of the sails of their far-right rival, or only give him more legitimacy? ... After the Netherlands comes France. There, Europe's future truly hangs in the balance. A victory for Marine Le Pen seems impossible for now. But that was also true for Trump. The Dutch voters will show whether the way forward runs through the centre.”
Choice between Europe's values and dark forces
The Dutch could send a positive message that has an impact far beyond their country's borders, Aftonbladet stresses:
“With a little luck this could be the second time within a short period that the triumphant march of right-wing populism is interrupted. … The politics of the Netherlands have long since ceased to revolve around conflict between left and right. Here we have the green, open and liberal Europe pitched against nationalism and isolationist tendencies. … And nothing has been decided yet. This is a choice between the European values that have contributed to peace and prosperity for the last 70 years and forces that represent the lowest point in Western civilisation. The outcome of the Dutch vote will affect us all.”