The headlines this morning provide two bits of far-flung hope for those still shaken by Brexit and Donald Trump: the new version of Trump's travel ban applied to six majority-Muslim countries was blocked by a judge in Hawaii; meanwhile, halfway across the world, Geert Wilders' far-right party suffered surprisingly disappointing results in Dutch parliamentary elections.
But the winds of populism and anti-immigrant fervor are far from quiet. The U.S. ban will likely be back again, under one form or another, with ultimate limits on the power of the judicial branch to stave off popular sentiment. Indeed, Wilders' falling short of the top vote count may just be a bump in the road on the way to eventually taking power.
Rutte celebrates victory, for now at least.
From the point of view of Wilders' PVV party, winning five additional seats in a hotly disputed election with a turnout at a 30-year high, and becoming the country's second-biggest party, can simply not be considered failure. Wilder told ITV that his party had "put [its] mark on the elections" and that its "influence grew every day." Critics had indeed already observed a shift to the right in the latest policies and stances of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose liberal VVD party remains the largest party despite losing 8 seats.
The recent diplomatic row with Turkey seems to have benefited Rutte more than Wilders, as it allowed the PM to take a tough stance against a Muslim leader in a campaign that's been dominated by anger at immigration and integration. Now that the campaign is over, Dutch media believe Rutte faces an uphill battle to form a coalition government, especially after the historic defeat of his former coalition partner, the Labour Party, which lost 29 of its 38 seats in Parliament.
In a tweet, Washington Post columnist Charles Lane noted that "maybe we're all missing the real story in European politics which is not the rise of the populist right but the fall of Social-Democratic left." That's true in the Netherlands, for now. But the next big political test, in France starting on April 23, might prove that the two phenomenon are two sides of the same coin. For now, at least, those coins are still counted in euros.
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