Dutch electorate rejects `un-Dutch' Wilders candidacy

March 20, 2017


Elaine Justice


Sam Cherribi, Senior Lecturer at Emory University in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, is available to comment on the forces behind the outcome of the recent Dutch election. He's a former Member of Parliament in The Netherlands for two consecutive four year terms (1994-2002), during which time he also represented The Netherlands in the Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of the West European Union.

"The defeat of Geert Wilders during the recent Dutch election heralds three deep truths: First, the predicted populist tsunami threatening the liberal democracies of Europe was halted during the March 15 elections. Second, Wilders is unable to exceed the ceiling of 20 percent of seats considering that it is near impossible for a single party to reach the required 76 seats to form a government. Third, the Dutch prefer a liberal democracy as opposed to narrow nationalism.

"The averted populist victory is a result of four factors: an increased turnout due to good weather, a substantial number of youth voting for the first time, the Dutch cabinet’s decisive actions during the Turkish crisis four days prior to the election, and Wilders’ inability to convey new ideas beyond the 10-year-old anti-Islamic talking points during the televised debate.

"The Turkish crisis, with President Erdogan, was a prime opportunity to neutralize Wilders’ accusations that the government was too weak on Turkey. As a result, there was a shift of attention away from the Moroccan “scum”, as Wilders labels them, to the Turks.

"The televised debate, between Wilders and Rutte, was at times embarrassing for Wilders. When PM Rutte challenged him for specifics regarding his idea for Quran Police, asking Wilders “Are you going door to door to ban the Quran?”, Wilders repeatedly dodged the question. The question remained unanswered. Rutte intended to call Wilders’ bluff and succeeded. Both candidates know that it’s a nonsense subject because the Quran can be found on the Internet, memorized and recited with no need for a physical copy. So why have the Quran Police?

"Because Wilders envisioned himself as the Donald Trump of Europe, he mistakenly assumed that he would not need a successful campaign and that victory would fall into his lap. He forgot that the Netherlands is an entirely different political reality than the US. He needs to remember the magic Dutch word “nuchterheid” synonym of sobriety, which means that no matter how wealthy a society is, people should remain modest in how they dress. The Dutch queen only wore her expensive jewelry when she visited the English queen. Due to almost no campaigning and minimal participation in the debates, Wilders shot itself in the foot. His story is like a broken record.

"Back to the Dutch mantra of “nuchterheid” or the sobriety that underlies the opulent wealth of the paintings of the Dutch masters. Wilders attraction has begun to recede due to his generalizing anti-Islamic message, rhetoric and slogans which are simply un-Dutch. The Dutch history of tolerance and religious pluralism prevailed on this election day."