The much anticipated Dutch parliamentary election ended in a clear victory for the pro-European, liberal parties. The party of the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, won the most seats in the country’s parliament – 33, followed by Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) which won 21 seats.
With the defeat of the anti-immigrant, euro-skeptic PVV, European leaders can breathe a collective sigh of relief. The Dutch election has widely been regarded as a test for pro-European forces on the continent, prior to important elections in France and Germany. More importantly, the Dutch election was an indicator of strength of populist forces across the EU.
Wilders campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, wanted to shut down mosques and ban the Koran, but failed to win the most seats in the country’s parliament.
Bolstered by his election victory, Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, said that the Netherlands “said stop to the wrong kind of populism.”
A sense of relief was evident among European leaders who lined up on Thursday to congratulate Dutch Prime Minister on his election victory over Geert Wilders.
“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 another term in Federal election in September.
French President, Francois Hollande, said that Dutch election result is a “clear victory against extremism.”
The centrist, pro-European candidate in French Presidential election, Emmanuel Macron, said: “The Netherlands is showing us that a breakthrough for the extreme right is not a foregone conclusion and that progressives are gaining momentum.”
Macron is widely expected to face Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, in French Presidential election run-off in May. Most polls predict that Macron will comfortably beat Le Pen in the election run-off, but recent surveys indicate that Le Pen is gaining ground.
While the Dutch election results are a sign of encouragement for pro-European forces ahead of elections in France and Germany, the defeat of Wilders is not necessarily an indicator that European populism is waning.
Europe will not be anticipating the results of French Presidential election, which could determine the future of the EU, as well as the overall political landscape on the European continent.