In a disappointing turn of events for Dutch people who do not wish to see their country go the way of Sweden and Germany, Conservative Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appears to have fended off a challenge from Geert Wilders, a right-wing politician who has been hailed by supporters for his fearless anti-Islam stance.
Exit polls show that Rutteâ€™s VVD party will reign supreme in Dutch Parliament with a likely 32 seats out of 150, placing it 12 seats ahead of its nearest rival. The center-right CDA came in second place with 20 seats after it appears to have benefited from a last-ditch appeal to the growing nationalist tendencies throughout the country.
Wildersâ€™ Party for Freedom is expected to come in third place, a disappointing result considering a number of polls at the beginning of the year that placed him on the path to securing the top spot. However, the Labour party dialed in a remarkably poor performance, shrinking from 38 seats in the last election to just 10, indicating fragmentation within the left wing.
The mainstream media has already begun shifting its focus toward the French election, which will see Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National party whose politics are roughly analogous to Wildersâ€™, square off against Emmanuel Macron, a centrist who espouses open-borders globalist ideologies.
As the Dutch election was the first major political contest of the year in Europe, it was considered a litmus test that would determine what kind of foothold populism has found on the continent. Wildersâ€™ defeat could prove problematic for Le Pen, who has faced similar media condemnation for her uncompromising France-first beliefs.
Although Wilders will likely not hold significant power himself, his upstart movement forced leaders of the main parties to tackle issues like immigration that would have been sidestepped in previous elections. During the campaign, Rutte adopted an increasingly tougher stance on immigrants, at one point telling them to â€śact normal or go away.â€ť