Bewilder(s)ed and Bemused? The Dutch Parliamentary Election Explained to Other Europeans


On 15 March the Dutch voters kicked off a crucial European election year. After the shockwaves of the Brexit referendum and Trump’s victory in the States, all eyes were on Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV). According to opinion polls just before the election Wilders’s modest variation on Trump’s election slogan ‘Make the Netherlands ours again’ attracted 16 percent of the votes, though the trend had been going downward for a while. Still, there was only one party which seemed to be competing for the pole position and that was Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). All other parties, including Rutte’s coalition partner, the social democratic Labour Party (PvdA) were way behind. But even with the PVV in a winning mood, the likelihood that Wilders would become the next Dutch Prime Minister or at least a partner in a government coalition was as good as zero (of course, this was what most of us thought about the chances of Brexit and Trump’s victory as well), as the majority of parties had excluded an alliance with the PVV. But whatever government will emerge after the March election, the question remains:  how could it come so far that in a rich and uneventful country like the Netherlands, co-founder and model pupil of the European Community, famous for its apparent tolerance and European-mindedness, a Eurosceptic and xenophobic politician can dominate the public debate like Wilders has done for many years now? Many outside the Netherlands have difficulties understanding this development of a country whose citizens have little to worry about compared to many others in Europe and elsewhere. We invited two journalists from countries of the south of Europe with totally different political agendas and realities, Spain and Greece, as well as the audience to ask the questions to a Dutch trio consisting of a politician, an ex-politician and a journalist.

Product details
Date of Publication
April 2017
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
Number of Pages
Language of publication