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

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

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat