Dutch election to decide future of EU as Mark Rutte eyes Angela Merkel’s hot seat in bloc

Brexit means the Netherlands has 'lost an ally' says expert

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Dutch voters have been braving the pandemic and heading to the polls since Monday to decide on who will be they next prime minister. Incumbent leader Mark Rutte is expected to comfortably win the election ahead of right-wing leader Geert Wilders.

Despite many people in the EU thinking it will be the September general elections in Germany that could cause significant shock in the bloc, the elections in the Netherlands come with no less magnitude.

According to Italian daily Il Foglio, the Dutch elections in the Netherlands are decisive for the EU for many reasons.

They wrote: “First of all, the Dutch electorate was a precursor of models that were exported to the rest of the EU. Political fragmentation is now a common evil in most European countries.

“The eruption of the Pim Fortuyn list in 2002 anticipated the advent in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe of identity movements and parties, mainly of the far right, which have thrived thanks to themes such as multiculturalism, terrorism, immigration and islam.

“Pim Fortuyn, murdered in the middle of the electoral campaign, was something different from the Wilders, Matteo Salvini or Marine Le Pen.

“But European far-right leaders managed to ride some of Fortuyn’s themes to shake the whole Western world in 2016 with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the United States.

“The following year it was in the Netherlands that the populist wave ended, a few weeks before the presidential elections in France.

“On March 15, 2017 Rutte won what had become a referendum between the pro-Europeans and the anti-Europeans, trailing Wilders by over 8 points.”

The Italian newspaper also claimed that Mr Rutte’s position could be crucial for the future geopolitical relationships in the bloc once Angela Merkel steps down as German Chancellor.

They added: “The Dutch vote and the possible confirmation of Rutte are important for the EU for another reason.

“If he returns to being prime minister, once Angela Merkel is gone, Rutte will become the longest-serving head of state and government after Viktor Orbán.

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“But the Hungarian premier has put himself out of the European game with his authoritarian drift and passion for illiberal democracy. On the other hand, Rutte was able to put the Netherlands at the centre of the EU chessboard.”

Others have claimed that the elections will also determine a shift in the eurosceptic feelings of people in the Netherlands.

As Mr Wilders gains increasing support in the country, questions over the future of the Hague’s membership to the EU are also growing.

Maria Demertzis, from think-tank Bruegel told Euronews: “The UK departure has really meant that the Dutch have lost an ally in the way they think and operate.

“The Dutch always look West for the way they do business and for the way they engage.”

She added: “With the UK gone, a very important voice has gone in all matters European.

“There is now only a Franco-German agreement that is required in the EU for things to progress and the Dutch are worried that that will be all it takes, and others will not be heard, so they want to make sure that others are also listened to.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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