Thursday, March 16, 2017

Voters Thwart 'Dutch Trump'

PPV leader Geert Wilders (left) & PM Mark Rutte 
With a federal judge in Hawaii blocking Trump's 2nd attempt to ban Muslims from six countries, chalk one up for reason.

Chalk one up for sanity too, as many political observers including myself, are breathing a cautious sigh of relief after early voting results and exit poll data showed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's VVD Party on track to hold off an upset victory by Geert Wilders.

Wilders, the charismatic leader of the right-wing, anti-immigrant Freedom Party (PVV), with his distinctive hair style and flair for scapegoating non-Dutch immigrants with divisive inflammatory language, is basically like "Dutch Trump" without the ethical baggage and compulsive lying.

As the BBC reported, Rutte's center-right leaning VVD (People's Party For Freedom and Democracy) is projected to take 31 of the 150 seats in the Dutch Parliament known formally as the Tweede Kamer de Staten-Generaal (pronounced like this).

The Tweede Kamer, or Second Chamber, is like the American House of Representatives, or British House of Commons, except with power divided proportionately amongst 7 different parties.

Obviously with so many parties, coalitions are key and the results of the election offer an interesting snapshot of the current global political zeitgeist.

While the liberal-leaning Green Left Party won 16 seats compared to only four in the last parliament, the Labour Party, which had formed a partnership with Geert Wilder's Freedom Party, watched it's seat count slip from 38 to 9 - a thorough political ass-kicking by any measure.

"Freedom yes, Islamisation, no' sign at pro-Wilders rally
Dutch politics, like politics anywhere, is a many-headed creature; so there were multiple factors that propelled Prime Minister Rutte to victory.

For example, as Samuel Osborne reported in an article in the Independent back on January 24th, Rutte shrewdly took out a full-page newspaper ad to carefully retool his stance on immigration to make it more palatable to Dutch voters than Wilder's "Trump-like" denunciations of immigrants.

Rutte assured Dutch voters that they "have to actively defend our values" against those immigrants who behave or act in ways contrary to Dutch laws and customs - and his carefully-crafted political soundbite admonishing anti-social immigrants to "Behave normally, or go away.", went down well with Dutch voters concerned about border control, but leery of Wilder's quasi-fascist stance.

In August of 2016 he published a manifesto outlining plans for the 'De-Islamization' of the Netherlands.

As an article in the Guardian reported, four months later on December 9, 2016, a panel of three judges found Wilders guilty of inciting discrimination against Moroccan immigrants in a 2014 speech  - and in a reflection of some American's reaction to Trump's divisive campaign hate-speech, Wilders saw a temporary spike in his popularity.

Plus, as Osborne notes, Rutte managed to guide the Dutch economy through a prolonged shaky European economic landscape at a time when the coalition partnership of Wilder's PVV and the Labour Party were advocating unpopular austerity measures - measures which angered many middle and working class Europeans, met with mixed economic results and prompted widespread protests across Europe.

Pro-immigrant rally in the Dutch city of the Hague
So while I'm not an expert on Dutch politics by any means, I think it's fair to say that at least one of the reasons that a record 81% of Dutch voters came out to vote reflected concerns over the chaos and havoc the Trump presidency has unleashed on America.

The Dutch certainly aren't blind to how Trump's statements and actions have already damaged U.S. relations on the global stage.

And when you consider the collective impact of the German occupation of the Netherlands during WWII, it's a fair bet that most Dutch are well aware of the dangers of nationalism run amok.

The German bombing of Rotterdam on May 10, 1940 which killed hundreds of innocent civilians and totally destroyed one of oldest and most historic city centers in Europe, will not soon be forgotten.

Given the intense media focus on the first 100 days (and almost as many lies) of the new presidential administration, Republican's proposed challenges to the Affordable Care Act and the recent late-winter storm that slammed the mid-Atlantic region over the past few days, the Dutch elections that took place on Thursday aren't exactly front page news here in the U.S.

But that doesn't mean they weren't closely watched here in the states - and Wilder's defeat at the polls with 81% of the Dutch population voting was not lost on Democrats or Republicans here in America who are laying out strategy for the upcoming Congressional mid-term elections in 2018.

With Britain moving closer to making their 'Brexit' from the European Union a political reality and upcoming elections scheduled to take place in France, the rise of the kind of anti-immigrant 'populism' that propelled a huckster real estate swindler and reality TV star into the White House is now a global concern.

A concern reflected in the poll results in the Netherlands where the Dutch said no to the Republican Party's (and their quasi-Republican president's) brand of divisive anti-immigrant scapegoating.


No comments: