Short Note 16 March 2017
The Dutch make a stand
The global press has been looking for another scalp, making it a head-trick after Brexit on 23 June and Trump on 8 November 2016. The next domino to fall to populism was to be Europe, falling apart in the process.
And thus the global interest in white-maned Geert Wilders in Holland, followed by Marie Le Pen in France in April, and other such folk in Italy in May, though short of Germany.
Great was the interest in the Wilders steamroller, yet it was forced to a near standstill in yesterday’s Dutch general election. The Dutch electorate made a stand of its own, with a near all-time record over 82% voter turn-out, after its government had made its own stand against Turkey last weekend.
Next is France where Macron in coming months is expected to win the second round of the presidential election from Le Pen.
Holland has turned centre-right by rewarding the sitting prime minister Rutte and the parties likely to do business with him (CDA, D66. CU).
Together with his VVD they gathered some 76 out of 150 seats (with Wilders at 19). A slim coalition majority at best, but more fringe parties likely to vote with government then against it in the next four years of governing.
The biggest advantage to the new government is having the economic wind in the back, too. Holland is now growing relatively fast, its unemployment falling steadily and its fiscal finances gathering strength, finally allowing some belt loosening in critical political areas after years of painful austerity. Both low and middle incomes are likely to be favoured with real gains, defence will be beefed up, migration and integration getting yet more attention.
None of this should suggest that the Great War with Populism is at an end. A mere lull in the skirmishing has been achieved. But the tide appears to be turning, if only slowly. So if yesterday’s victors can build on their gains, followed by similar tidings from France, the Battle for Europe may have passed its critical point.
But it will still be a long slog ahead. For instance, a hard Brexit is next.
Bruggemans & Associates, Consulting Economists