If the 2017 Dutch election was seen as a bellwether for populism in Europe, the verdict is still out. Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD may have come out on top, but it was a limping victory. One which saw the party lose around a quarter of its seats and radically shift its position over immigration.
Just a year ago Rutte stood firm that immigrants were welcome in his country. But as the winds seemed to favour the anti-immigration stance of far-right parties, his rhetoric changed. ‘Act normal or go away,’ he said recently. It was in response to growing concerns that immigrants arriving in the Netherlands were not yet integrating.
The fact is that the “mainstream parties” have adopted most of Wilder’s immigration policy.