Peter Mair: Huge influx of immigrants has changed Dutch society forever

Share
Related Topics

What had been expected to be relatively run-of-the-mill local elections in the Netherlands quickly acquired a lot more significance once the Dutch government had unexpectedly collapsed over the Afghanistan issue. These results tell us little about Afghanistan, but they do offer a foretaste of the possible result of the general election that is planned for 9 June, and in particular they give us a good indication of the prospects for Geert Wilders' far-right Freedom Party.

Dutch politics has been in disarray since the traditional patterns were first challenged by Pim Fortuyn's populist protest in 2002. Fortuyn was, of course, assassinated just before that election, and his leaderless party fell apart soon afterwards. Wilders has now taken up Fortuyn's legacy, but in a much more extreme and direct manner.

His is an explicitly anti-Islam party, decrying the Koran, threatening deportation for immigrant offenders, promising a ban on the building of mosques and minarets, and so on. In this, he builds on, and further promotes, the inter-communal tensions that have been so evident in the Netherlands since Fortuyn, and which also hit the headlines with the assassination of film director Theo van Gogh and the hounding of the politician and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Dutch society, long one of the most homogenous in continental Europe, was never as tolerant as it appeared, and problems which rumbled for long under the surface have become steadily more acute as the share of the non- Western immigrant population has grown to become one of the largest in western Europe.

The Dutch party system is now exceptionally fragmented. No party is expected to win much more than 20 per cent in the coming election, which, given the extreme proportionality of the electoral system, means none is likely to win more than 30 of the 150 seats.

In this clouded Dutch landscape, Wilders's sharp and direct appeal wins a lot of favour. He also runs a highly disciplined party. There is no membership, and hence no activist layer which needs to be appeased, and the party's parliamentary group – currently nine seats – is firmly under his control.

In the local elections, he concentrated his efforts on just two flagship municipalities: Almere, a new city near Amsterdam, and The Hague, the seat of government. His party did tremendously well in both, topping the poll in Almere, and running a close second to Labour in The Hague.

All this is good for the image that Wilders promotes, of a party for straight talking and with popular appeal. It also positions him well for the general election, with the Freedom Party now being forecast to emerge as the first or second largest in parliament. The big question now is whether, and how, that success might translate into a role in government.



Peter Mair is Professor of Comparative Politics at the European University Institute and author of 'European Politics: Pasts, Presents, Futures'

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A still from the BBC's new rap about the outbreak of WW1  

Why give the young such a bad rap?

David Lister
Israeli army soldiers take their positions  

Errors and Omissions: Some news reports don’t quite hit the right target

Guy Keleny
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice