Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dutch General Election Postmortem: Warning Sign for U.S. Democrats, Silver Lining for France's Macron

Inflate a bogeyman. Then puncture bogeyman. Celebrate.

This is the gist of Dutch election postmortems. Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom didn't come out on top. Prime minister Mark Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, though losing seven seats, maintained its pole position thanks to pro-EU sentiment and record voter turnout. According to Alissa Rubin's "Geert Wilders Falls Short in Election, as Wary Dutch Scatter Their Votes":
According to an unofficial tally compiled by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation, the country’s public broadcaster, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was likely to capture 33 of the 150 seats in Parliament — a loss of seven seats, but still far more than any other party.
Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom was expected to finish second, with 20 seats (an increase of eight); and the right-leaning Christian Democratic Appeal and the left-leaning Democrats 66 were tied for third, with 19 each, the broadcaster reported.
Given the loss of seven seats by his governing party, and given that few were predicting a Wilders victory even when he was touching the clouds with impressive poll numbers earlier this year, pictures of a beaming Rutte communicate the desperation of a collapsing neoliberal center.

Rutte saved his bacon by fabricating a national dust-up with another bogeyman, one far more real than the marginal Wilders -- Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The debate that will rage until next month and the first round of voting in the French presidential election is the extent to which the returns in the Netherlands apply to the rest of Europe.

I think the Dutch vote was an accurate snapshot of the status quo. But it cannot be directly overlaid to France because the mainstream parties in Holland have not eroded to the extent that they have in France -- with Hollande a zombie and Fillon charged with embezzlement. Nonetheless, as Rubin reminds us, "The big loser was the center-left Labor Party, which was expected to drop from being the second largest party in Parliament, with 38 seats and a position as Mr. Rutte’s coalition partner. The party was expected to win only nine seats."

Democrats in the U.S. should take note; Macron in France too. If Macron wants to win in May he should swing to the right, possibly by throwing a punch at Erdogan.

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