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Damming the Nationalist Flood

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Geert Wilders fell well behind nationalist-populist hopes in yesterday’s Dutch elections.

His anti-immigration PVV party is set to gain a few seats in Parliament (from 15 to 19), but this is still below the height of Dutch nationalist politics under Pim Fortuyn (who got 26 seats in 2002) and Wilders’s own high point (24 seats in 2010). Meanwhile, the GreenLeft got a big boost (from 4 to 14 seats).

Not only does this mean that the new Dutch government won’t need to consider a coalition with Wilders, but it also hopefully means that likely returning PM Mark Rutte (VVD, Liberals) will not continue pulling to the right to lure voters. Exit interviews suggest that Dutch voters were concerned about Wilders’s wild rhetoric, especially his attacks on Islam and on the country’s migrant populations. Though Rutte’s recent spat with Turkish diplomats certainly helped him appeal to some of the Wilders crowd.

Moreover, this potentially takes the wind out of the Front National’s sails in France. Marine Le Pen is still polling ahead of her competitors for the first round of the French presidential elections on April 23. A strong showing for Wilders would have given her additional force, signaling a true rising tide of nationalist populism in Europe.

The road ahead is not exactly easy: forming the new coalition government will likely take months (and the results will not be the most stable).

But, for a brief moment, let’s enjoy a bit of good news for the fight against xenophobia and reactionary nationalism.

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