Far-right party wins most votes in Dutch provincial elections

By Harm Zonderland
30 March 2019

On March 20, provincial councils were elected in all of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands. The most significant outcome of the election was the entrance into the Senate of the Forum for Democracy (FvD), led by Thierry Baudet. The far-right, near-fascist party won 12 out of 75 seats.

The FvD was elected into the House of Representatives for the first time in 2017, when it won two out of 150 seats. In a statement made after the provincial elections Baudet issued a message to prime minister Mark Rutte: “You can no longer ignore the FvD.”

It was the first time that the FvD was running in the provincial elections, and it was among the top three parties in all the provinces. It is the strongest party in Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, where the capital Amsterdam, the Harbor of Rotterdam and the political center in The Hague are situated.

The FvD’s political agenda includes a call for closing the borders. It has been able to capitalize on the xenophobia stoked up by the rightwing-liberal VVD of prime minister Rutte and the far-right Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders.

On the same nationalistic grounds, the FvD proposes to leave the European Union. Furthermore, FvD’s leader Thierry Baudet is a so-called “climate change denier.” He was able to gain some working-class support by criticizing government spending on renewable energy rather than on healthcare.

Voter turnout was higher, at 56 percent, than in the previous provincial elections in 2015 when 48 percent of those eligible voted.

The media concentrated their attention on a major consequence of the provincial elections: the composition of the Senate, the First Chamber of Parliament, that is elected by the provincial councils.

While the Senate is to be elected in the coming three weeks, it is already clear the government coalition has lost its small majority. The coalition parties, the right-liberal VVD, the liberal D66 and the Christian democratic CDA, with the exception of the latter, have lost seats. The far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) and the Socialist Party (SP) have lost half of their senators, the social-democratic labour party PvdA has lost one seat.

The pseudo-left greens of GroenLinks have doubled their seats in the Senate. They profited from their standpoints on climate issues, such as compensation for increased household energy costs and higher “climate-taxes” for corporations. The ruling VVD has adapted its program to some of the positions of GroenLinks, minimizing its losses to just one seat.

But this is not, as the media claim, a “turn to the left.” While the transition from a fossil-fueled energy supply to renewable forms is popular, a lot of money can be made by some of the VVD’s closest allies, like the large energy and technology corporations.

To get legislation passed through the Senate, the government coalition now has to seek support from opposition parties. Mark Rutte commented: “We will make sure we get majorities. It means a lot of coffee and even more phone calls.”

GroenLinks has eagerly expressed its willingness to co-operate. Its nine senators would be enough for a majority. GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said: “Last week the government made promises on climate-policy. We will hold them to those promises.” Other parties, like the social-democrats of the PvdA and the right-wing PVV, have made certain demands that are to be met if the government coalition seeks their support.

The main winner of the election is the FvD. Like all fascist parties, both historically and at present, FvD puts forward an extreme right-wing agenda, serving the interests of their capitalist allies and benefactors. They combine nationalism and xenophobia with demagogic promises on issues such as healthcare and education.

Baudet appeals to nationalist sentiments and proposes xenophobic, anti-immigrant policies, using the same methods as Donald Trump with his “America First” rallies and his rants about “immigrant invasions.” While the entire political establishment is planning to place the financial burden of the energy transition on the backs of workers, FvD calls for ending investment in renewable energy resources, claiming that they are “too expensive.”

In addition, Baudet profits from popular discontent with the national government. After decades of austerity and “crisis management,” originally initiated by the social democrats of the PvdA, people have had enough of cuts to social programs, pensions and wages. Baudet publicly denounces the political elite and the “jobs carousel” or “old boys’ network,” appealing to the anger about the political establishment.

However, the political establishment has nothing to fear from Baudet’s denunciations, as those are just for the public. He has gathered a base of supporters in the capitalist class and affluent middle class—by portraying himself as well off and culturally literate, and by referring to art, culture and history in his speeches. In his victory speech, referring to climate policy, Baudet proclaimed: “The Owl of Minerva has come down, to dispel the idol called Transition.”

The rise of fascist tendencies within the ruling circles can be seen in several European countries, from Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), to Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party and the Dutch Forum for Democracy , but also in the Americas. In Brazil, the recently elected president Jair Bolsonaro is known for his anti-immigrant views, his open admiration of the Brazilian military dictatorship, and his pledges to transnational corporations and the “free market.”

In the US, President Trump openly declared class war by claiming that the “twilight hour of socialism” has arrived, and vowing, “America will never be a socialist country.”

When social-democratic parties, Greens, so-called “socialist” and other pseudo-left parties disappoint and betray the working class time and time again, people look for an alternative. And since there is no visible left-wing alternative, some voters stumble into the trap of voting for right-wing parties.

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