Derk Stokmans: The dilemma facing mainstream Dutch parties

Analysis

Share
Related Topics

The scenario that many Dutch politicians feared has become a reality.

The resounding success of Geert Wilders in the European elections riled the continent but it is here in the Netherlands that the ramifications will be most keenly felt. Mr Wilders says his victory is a condemnation of the current coalition, comprised of the Christian Democrats, the Labour Party and a small orthodox Christian party. They, of course, deny that's the case, and point to low turnout and all kinds of other incidental and European causes that have nothing to do with national politics.

But behind the scenes, many political parties are more worried than ever. Up until the vote on Thursday, Mr Wilder's opponents were able to publicly disregard the rising popularity of the right-winger by highlighting the fickleness of the opinion polls. They have abandoned that argument now. The mainstream politicians hoped that the people who said they would vote for Mr Wilders would not actually show up at the polls. But they did, and might do so again.

His fans have made it clear that they are not just driven by his anti-European agenda, so it's plausible that they will turn out for the 2010 local elections and national elections scheduled for 2011.

One of the main attractions is Mr Wilder's anti-Islamic stance, but he has also wooed voters generally disaffected with the political system. That he understands this, can be seen by his recent frontal attack on the "moral disintegration of the Dutch elite of politicians, judges, civil servants and journalists", who he sees as responsible for everything wrong in Dutch society.

The mainstream political parties have been struggling for two years to find a satisfactory answer to his attacks. Conditioned by generations of participating in coalition governments, they find it difficult to break traditional habits of forging compromises with political opponents, and are uncomfortable with a more confrontational style of politics. This makes them easy targets for Mr Wilders, who ridicules their consensus seeking, and portrays them as weak, ineffective and oblivious to the concerns of "ordinary people".

Ministers from the Labour Party, beaten into third place this election, have already vowed to step up attacks on Mr Wilders, whom they (and all the other parties in parliament) see as a divisive, negative force in Dutch society. Dutch voters will soon see if his competitors can beat the rule-changing politician at his own game.

Derk Stokmans is the Political Editor of the Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions