The political center collapses in the Netherlands

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Nick Eicher, host: Coming up next The world and everything in itSurprising election results in the Netherlands.

This small northern European country is famous for its progressive values. But on November 22nd, Dutch voters went to the polls and elected an anti-Islamic, anti-immigration candidate for prime minister. His name is Geert Wilders and he now leads the Party for Freedom, the largest political party in the Dutch parliament.

Mary Reichardt, host: The world’s top writer Emma Freier lives in the Netherlands and has been tracking this story for us. Good morning Emma.

Eicher: Let’s start with a primer. How do Dutch elections work and why do voters actually cast their votes?

Emma Freier: Reporter: The Netherlands has a multi-party system, with 150 seats for 17 and a half million people. Therefore, more parties tend to enter parliament. It is clear that Dutch voters want a big change. Many of the parties that lost in this election cycle were part of the previous ruling coalition. This vote rejected the previous government. At the beginning of the campaign there was a very promising anti-establishment candidate named Peter Omtzigt. But in a poor campaign, he dropped the baton and Wilders jumped right in and picked it up. In the days leading up to the election, polls showed four parties tied for the largest. One of them is Geert Wilders Party for Freedom. So he was expected to do well. But then when the results came in, it was the biggest party by a wide margin. He had 37 seats, and the next largest party had 25.

Richard: Tell us a little about Geert Wilders. who is he What does he stand for?

Freier: Well, Wilders has really been a mainstay of Dutch politics for a long time. He comes from a humble background, born into an economically depressed blue-collar family in the southern Netherlands. As a teenager, Wilders traveled to Israel and lived there for a year. He likes to say in interviews that this experience shaped his worldview. Because he saw that people in Israel have freedom and prosperity because of democracy, but he saw that in some neighboring countries of the Middle East they are poor and oppressed. He believes this is because of Islam. So he is a strong critic of Islam and to this day is a very strong supporter of the state of Israel.

In the year He was elected to Parliament in 1998, one of the largest parties, but then he had a falling out with them. In 2006, he founded his own party, the Freedom Party. So he has been a Member of Parliament for 25 years. He was always very vocal when criticizing Islam. He called for the sale of the Quran to be banned and said it should be treated as a book. My struggle By Adolf Hitler. They also called for the closure of mosques, which they call the palaces of hatred. He has been accused in the Netherlands of inciting discrimination and hatred for some of his statements over the years. Now, it’s worth mentioning that Wilders is not a social conservative in any way, shape, or form. He is pro-euthanasia and pro-abortion.

Reichardt: What were the other big issues in the election?

Freire: Well, Dutch voters are struggling with a sense that their government is broken. Childcare benefit fraud was a major scandal involving parents who were falsely accused by the government. They are ordered to pay benefits, which usually reach 10s of 1000 dollars. This was very devastating for them. And to understand the context here, Dutch people are used to good governance. In America, unfortunately, we know the messiness of government. But for the people of the Netherlands, the scandal has shaken their faith in the government.

In addition, the Dutch government is planning to sell farmland to meet EU directives to reduce nitrogen emissions. Farmers are protesting heavily. Many Dutch people are very sympathetic to farmers and are not very happy about these plans to close farms. So that was also a big deal.

Freire: Well, Dutch voters are struggling with a sense that their government is broken. Childcare benefit fraud was a major scandal involving parents who were falsely accused by the government. They are ordered to pay benefits, which usually reach 10s of 1000 dollars. This was very devastating for them. And to understand the context here, Dutch people are used to good governance. In America, unfortunately, we know the messiness of government. But for the people of the Netherlands, the scandal has shaken their faith in the government.

In addition, the Dutch government is planning to sell farmland to meet EU directives to reduce nitrogen emissions. Farmers are protesting heavily. Many Dutch people are very sympathetic to farmers and are not very happy about these plans to close farms. So that was also a big deal. And also the Dutch people are feeling very confident. Inflation has occurred. The cost of health care is increasing. The chronic housing shortage has worsened. And high levels of immigration, to all of these concerns, is feeding the housing shortage in particular. Dutch people worry if there are not enough houses for them, where will Dutch people live?

Reichardt: In September, Italy elected a so-called “far-right” prime minister, and now the Netherlands is following suit. What political trends do you see spreading to other European countries?

Freire: Well, political scientists coined the term Dutch vote to describe the trend toward the collapse of the traditional political center in a country. So, as we clearly see in the Netherlands, the traditional big parties are doing very poorly in the elections and party parties are rising, and to some extent, this is the result of the structure of the Dutch government. It is very easy to find at least one seat for a small new party. The governmental structures of other countries make it difficult for fringe parties to rise, but in other countries, especially in Germany and France, as usual, the big parties have collapsed and we are seeing that fringe parties are taking many seats even though they may not have a high job opportunity. Parliament and local government and get a big say on policy making.

REICHARD: Emma Fryer is for Senior Writer. World magazine. Thanks for covering this story!

Friar: Oh, sure. Thank you.


World Radio Recordings was created in a rush. This article may not be in its final form and may be amended or modified in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. It is the authoritative record of the world’s radio programming.



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