It was a phenomenal rise. Geert Wilders, a complete nothing a decade ago, came out of the blue to make a challenge for the top spot in Dutch politics. In doing so he scared the willies out of the ruling elite across Europe.
In the dying minutes of the game, Wilders failed to clinch the required votes to ascend him to the throne.
What’s fascinating was how this all went down. As Jan and Marijke were gearing up to head to the polls all hell broke loose.
Some Background First
The last thing that Mark Rutte, the incumbent, needed in the dying minutes of the game was anything that could potentially add fuel to the anti-islamic populist fire. That would play directly into Wilders’ hand. What kind of thing?
Oh, say something like a political rally held for a
Middle Eastern European dictator politician campaigning… on Dutch soil. These campaigns have been going on for some time across Europe and have an odd habit of turning violent.
Foreign politics is increasingly embedded in Europe. With millions of Turkish immigrants now living in Europe, Erdogan can’t afford to ignore this electorate and so his political campaigns need to be brought onto European soil.
Europeans, for their part, have for years been quietly tucking their tails between their legs and saying to one another: “Oh, you know, we need to accept the differences of opinion – it’s the European way“.
That was all working dandily until Fleur got stabbed on the train ride home by a nutter yelling at her for wearing a short skirt and upsetting Allah and Hans’ daughter was raped at the local swimming pool by a group of immigrants who believe she was “asking for it” by wearing a bikini.
It all sounds good in theory but behind closed doors people like it as much as they like a good dose of venereal warts.
Jan and Marijke have been leaning towards Geert despite his looking suspiciously like a masculine incarnation of Barbie.
Why? In large part because they’re none to happy with what they see as the islamisation of their country.
Mark Rutte, the incumbent, favouring the politically correct approach of his European counterparts was fast losing ground to Wilders on these issues.
Violence at these political rallies has become fairly common and Rutte, no doubt fearing any such event would simply fuel the sentiment that had already driven Wilders into a contesting position, decided to ban Turkey’s foreign minister from holding a public rally in the country. And to make sure that this was implemented revoked his flight permit to even land.
Rutte was most likely expecting stern words through the usual diplomatic channels but most importantly nothing that would upset Jan and Marijke as they were preparing themselves for the big day at the voting booths.
And Then All Hell Broke Loose…
Instead of a quiet tiff between diplomats far from the media’s eye this immediately burst into the wide open.
Erdogan promptly called the Europeans Nazis which is pretty damn funny given the following:
Turks, perhaps a little confused as to which country they are actually guests in, became incensed that they couldn’t promote their chosen dictator in a foreign country and promptly lost the plot.
Europeans, increasingly concerned that Europe might just start looking a bit like Turkey, are no doubt a bit confused as to why it is that political problems from “other” countries have to become their problems. Ah, but therein lies the beauty of a “union”. One for all and all for one.
In any event, Rutte now had two choices:
- Placate Erdogan and risk looking like a wimp to his electorate. The very thing that he so didn’t want was now happening and at a scale that was almost certainly far grander than any skirmish at a pro-Erdogan rally would have been. The idea of ensuring there was no violence by Muslims on Dutch soil just ahead of elections had now backfired spectacularly and so there wasn’t much chance to reverse course now.
- Stand by the decision and understand that by doing so he was putting at risk all of Europe. I say this because Europe is beholden to Turkey who hold the key to the immigrant floodgates. Turkey can (as they’ve threatened) simply open the floodgates and not only would Europe be flooded with far more immigrants than they can cope with but the near certainty of Jihadist “Allahu Akbar” folks pouring into Europe via Turkey would be left wide open. Europe know this. It is why they’ve been negotiating with Turkey on this whole EU membership thing.
And this is where Rutte won the election – in the dying minutes of the game.
Jan and Marijke, concerned that Wilders might take the country a little too far “right”, had been searching for a sign of strength, of resolve, and of firm beliefs. They don’t understand the complexity of Turkish negotiations mentioned above. They only care about what they see day to day on the streets. In Rutte now they saw what they were looking for. Rutte, for his part, stood firm.
In stark contrast to Merkel, who is making a habit of doing her best to mimic a deer in headlights, Rutte escalated the conflict firing back at Erdogan, squashing protests with riot police, and having the Minister of Families escorted out of the country.
As he did so we have to ask ourselves the question: how many of those undecided voters who were leaning right came back into the party fold?
Obviously we don’t know. And while the media is spinning this as a European rejection of populism, if we think through what took place it may just be that Erdogan just handed Rutte the Dutch elections – not because Dutchies voted for a rejection of nationalism and populism but actually as a firm vote FOR it.
What we do know, however, is that the European shift towards nationalism isn’t going away despite what the pretty dolly birds on mainstream media are currently yapping on about. This event (the Turkish event) will likely become the defining point of Rutte’s premiership, and unless he continues to follow through with a similar “tough” stance Wilders will simply continue to gather more followers.
The truth is that no matter what Brussels podium donuts or anyone else may want to believe we can’t expect this visible clash of both cultures and religions to don its stripy pyjamas, down its milk and cookies, and go peacefully into the night. It’s not going to happen. There is no middle ground here.
Despite European leaders’ previous attempts to legitimise and ignore the onslaught this latest tiff between the Netherlands and Turkey is likely to act as a drawing of lines in the sand. For his part, Erdogan is pulling no punches.
“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets.” – Turkish President Erdogan
Those are fighting words and the fact that they came just days before yet another terror attack on European soil – this time in London – will add, not detract from the shifting zeitgeist I’ve been discussing at length in these pages.
In exactly a month’s time, our croissant eating friends go to the polls. The Dutch outcome, now fresh in the minds of all, may prove to be nothing at all like what I think is coming to France.
Right now perhaps as a result of the Dutch elections, journalists and market pundits alike have swung in favour of Macron over Le Pen. The futures market for its part doesn’t seem enthralled with either.
Grab your popcorn. This ought to be at least as much fun as Brexit was.
“History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” ―Voltaire