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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dutch prepare for election with increased nationalism

Geert Wilders
Amsterdam -- The Dutch election on Wednesday is intensifying feelings of nationalism in the land of the clogs and will be a test of how the country feels about Islamic immigration, to use a politically incorrect term. This comes after a rift with Turkey over the weekend.

Turkey wants to lobby Dutch Turks and have them support Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan by handing him sweeping power in a referendum in Turkey on April 16.

Geert Wilders, who's running on the Party For Freedom (PVV) wants to "de-Islamicise" the Netherlands. He's hoping the clashes between Turkish-Dutch protesters and the police, and the accusations made by Turkey of Dutch "fascism" will increase his chances of winning the election.

Unfortunately, Wilders' PVV has as much chance of forming a government, given the splintered party landscape, as Donald Trump had of winning the presidency. Everyone thinks Wilders will probably lose, just as people thought that Trump also would lose.

Like American leftists, whose only hope for winning is to use identity politics, other Dutch parties have ruled out a coalition with a party they view as racist.

France is a different story with far-right Marine Le Pen ahead in one poll. If she wins, there is a very good chance the French will pull out of the EU and curb immigration.

Germany too, with its Alternative for Germany right-wing, euroskeptic party, is probably going to win seats for the first time in the German federal parliament in September.

For now, the big question for the Dutch is whether the Turkey dispute will put Wilders in the driver's seat over Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose cabinet banned Turkish ministers from holding a rally in the Netherlands.

A recent snap poll indicated a 3-seat boost for Rutte's VVD with 2 seats for Wilders' PVV in the 150-seat parliament.

Many believe Rutte's current hard line on Turkey is merely a political ploy to appeal to realists who see the problems with immigration and dissuade them from voting for Wilders. 

The conservative group Christian Democrats (CDA) on Sunday urged Turkish immigrants to give up their dual nationality and integrate into Dutch culture. But the chances of that happening are about the same as a Muslim having his bar mitzvah at a mosque in Saudi Arabia.


Rutte and Wilders debated Monday with the main argument being how to stem immigration. 

Rutte called Wilders' plan to close borders and mosques and ban the Koran as "fake solutions" and said "While we are focusing on the causes of the refugee crisis, you're wasting all your attention on your Koran police."

Wilders responded by accusing Rutte of providing better healthcare for immigrants than the Dutch themselves. "We need to chose for our own people, for our own parents, and not for the asylum seekers. You are not the prime minister of the Netherlands, but of the foreigners."

While the latest Reuters poll puts Rutte's VVD at 16.2 percent, Wilders' PVV at 13.4 percent, and the CDA at 12.5 percent, it's possible that we may see the 'Trump Effect' on the election: people who say they're voting for Rutte or the CDA because they're uncomfortable saying they're actually voting for Wilders.  Tomorrow will tell.

With such a close margin between parties, any of them could win, but with what happened on Monday when Erdogan threatened legal action against the Dutch, opinion polls would be unreliable as viewpoints of the conflict changes. Wilders actually has a shot--but it's a long shot.