Dutch stem the populist tide – for now

Last week’s Dutch elections were “the first test in 2017 of the strength of the populist insurgency sweeping across Europe and threatening the future of the EU”, says the FT. Geert Wilders and his PVV party “fused anti-immigrant sentiment with euroscepticism and hostility to globalisation”, proposing bans on building mosques. But PVV took a mere 13% of the vote. It seems “the Dutch have halted the populist momentum in the West”.

“A government led by Wilders delivering a referendum on the EU was never, ever on the cards,” says Joris Luyendijk in The Guardian. While Wilders did lead the polls for a “brief period”, thanks to Holland’s system of PR such leads “mean nothing if no other party wants to govern with you”. Indeed, “the real story last week” was “the spectacular gains for two parties that are unashamedly pro-EU”. The truth is “there is no country in Europe where a party or parties demanding departure from the EU are anywhere near a majority”.

Voters may have “stepped back from the brink of extremism”, warns The Times, but it would be “a massive error” for Europe’s leaders to conclude that people are “broadly happy with the way things are”. Wilders’s defeat was mostly due to “the fragmented, multi-party nature of the country’s political system” rather than “a vote of confidence in the mainstream”. High joblessness and a “glacial post-crisis recovery” give EU voters “more cause for an angry rejection of the status quo”. The basic problem endures: “unless the EU reforms, it will die”.

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