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The Netherlands as a European barometer? The radical right has a place at the table, and the political center is holding its ground

The Dutch attention for European politics may have been limited this campaign, but on Thursday evening progressive party leaders called on Europe to at least take a valid look at the Netherlands.

“Look what the Netherlands is doing, do the same,” shouted GroenLinks-PvdA leader Frans Timmermans. According to him, the result shows that “it is not at all a foregone conclusion that the radical right will win these elections.” “Let our win be a message to liberal parties in Europe that now consider it normal to collaborate with the extreme right,” said D66 leader Rob Jetten.

What is certain is that Europe is indeed looking at the Netherlands. While last November’s elections were already seen as a foretaste of what awaits other countries, the Dutch vote kicked off a four-day European relay on Thursday. But it is at least possible to bet at the start of a crucial election weekend whether the exit polls will reveal a positive signal for the ‘centre’.

Also read
the analysis of the exit poll in the Netherlands

Cheers at GroenLinks-PvDA in Tivoli Vredenburg in Utrecht with party leader Frans Timmermans on stage.

The left-wing merger party was probably the largest on Thursday with a predicted 8 seats according to the exit poll, and the progressive D66 and Volt also both gained one seat. Parties that firmly stand for a pro-European course would receive approximately two-thirds of the votes. This is offset by a strong victory for the PVV, which rises from 1 to 7 seats. The BoerBurgerMovement, which was firmly Eurosceptic in the last campaign, is expected to gain 2 new seats in the European Parliament.


So what exactly does Europe see? Even more than the reliable ones for national elections, those for the European elections are always a kind of Rorschach test – an inkblot in which you can easily express any interpretation. After all, who becomes the largest party is less important due to the European dimension. Politicians can compare even more easily than usual with any previous result that suits them – from that of five years ago to that of a few months ago. In addition, there were more seats to be allocated for the Netherlands than five years ago, which makes comparisons even more complicated.

It is difficult why the interpretations in the international press also varied widely. Of the ‘Wähler-Watschn for Wilders‘ (voter’s ear) from the German newspaper Image into a ‘barometer’ of victory for radical elders in Europe on the insider site Politics saw in it.

Europe can certainly draw this conclusion: Dutch politics remains extremely volatile. Forum for Democracy, a major winner five years ago, is now expected to no longer be in the European Parliament at all. Then there will probably be four parties that were not present in recent years. And that in a political arena that normally requires learning time and experience, is not necessarily useful for Dutch influence.

In European superpowers Italy and France, radical right parties are in any case comfortably polled as the largest

And also: turnout rose sharply, from 41.8 percent in 2019 to almost 47 percent now – the highest percentage since 1989. But despite that higher turnout, a large majority of those who voted for PVV in November voted, according to research. not at all now. In other words: the potential for radical right is not always effective in the Netherlands.

Are elders in Europe the same? In European superpowers Italy and France, radical right parties are in any case comfortably polled as the largest, with a substantially convincing number two. In Germany, Alternative für Deutschland can still come in a solid second – despite the wave of scandals surrounding Russian and Chinese influence in which the party has been embroiled in recent months. Similar scandals also plague Vlaams Belang, which is nevertheless expected to win both the Belgian federal and European elections by a distance this Sunday.

Add up all those polled victories, including those of splinter parties, and the far right could potentially get more than 25 percent of the European votes.

In theory, she could form the largest bloc in the European Parliament, but in practice the chance of this is extremely small, due to the deep divisions. Look at your polls and, just like in the Dutch exit poll, you can see a reasonably stable center bloc of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Liberals, supplemented with a green edge. Radical right-wing parties are so divided that a consistent fist is virtually impossible.

But the latter is not merely a reassurance. The fragmentation on the radical right flank traditionally means, also according to a common complaint from center-right politicians, that it is extremely difficult to collaborate or make compromises. In Brussels, the pro-European forces are mainly the nuisance force or order disrupter that will be a large radical right flank.

Being in a political environment that normally relies on stability, looming significant voices and being constantly plagued by unreliability. The first will come very soon: the one on the reappointment of Ursula von der Leyen as Commission President, expected in mid-July.

The radical right already controls

Even five years ago, support for the Germans was uncertain and they made significant contributions to green and liberal parties to protect a large one. It delivered a progressive agenda that defined much of her term. It is expected that Von der Leyen will now make promises to part of the radical right flank, including by giving them prominent positions in her new Commission. This will influence the course of the EU for years to come.

This also has to do with the simple fact that the radical right is already fully involved in governance in Europe. In seven of the 27 EU countries the parts are part of a coalition, including Italy, Sweden and Finland. The Netherlands is probably the eighth country, possibly followed by Belgium or Austria later this year. in which the parties already co-govern in a third of the EU countries.

In a way, the radical right threat was also a nuisance force in the last campaign. The unexpected profit before everything in Europe went almost anything other than the impending wave. There was no popular discussion about major challenges and choices facing Europe in the synthetic years. For example: how will the European economy fare in potential terms, competing against state aid and lower energy prices in the US and China? Or: how to deal with a declining European population, with all the associated socio-economic consequences?

Significant influence

And the dominant victory also had a significant influence on policy last year. Faced with farmers’ demonstrations, the Commission introduced a number of greening measures in agriculture. At the end of last year, the EU reached an agreement on a major tightening of migration policy, while Von der Leyen flew around the world to conclude sometimes controversial agreements with various countries on stopping migrants.

It illustrates: even without actually being in power, the radical flank has considerable influence. For example, the centre-right European People’s Party has clearly moved to the right in recent years, and some Christian Democratic parties now advocate moving migrants outside Europe or reversing the phasing out of new fuel cars.

After Sunday evening, when the votes in Europe are counted, there will again be many inkblots that are too extensive. And one of those interpretations will certainly be: the middle is holding firm, the large Christian Democratic and Social Democratic European blocs will hardly lose any seats.

But if you even blink your eyes, you can also see: the radical right has been given a place at the table in Europe. And even if they are not the greatest of the most collected, let them earn their influence there.

Also read
What is known when? This is how the European elections work

Campaign posters in France for the European elections.

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