Will the Netherlands’ Rising Far-Right Star Survive the Scrutiny of Success?

Will the Netherlands’ Rising Far-Right Star Survive the Scrutiny of Success?
Thierry Baudet, left, and Jan Roos deliver a petition calling for the public to have a say on ties between the European Union and Ukraine, The Hague, Netherlands, Sept. 10, 2015 (Photo by Jaap Arriens for Sipa via AP Images).

Dutch voters delivered a shock in last week’s provincial elections, which also determined the makeup of the upper house of parliament. The outcome deprived Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s governing coalition of a majority in the Senate, giving the largest share of seats to a relatively new far-right party led by an ostentatious pseudo-intellectual, Thierry Baudet.

The victory by Baudet’s Forum for Democracy party, or FvD, however, is not proof that the Netherlands has taken a sharp rightward turn. The parliament is highly fragmented, and the political landscape is in flux, but the Netherlands remains a nation characterized by compromise. The question going forward is whether Baudet will manage to persuade more Dutch voters to follow him to the right, or whether his new celebrity status will make them look more closely at his views and turn away after discovering they do not share them.

After his party jumped from just two seats to 13, Baudet declared in his victory speech, “We stand here in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilization,” adding, “Minerva’s owl spreads its wings at dusk.” An allusion to imagery used by the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the term promptly started trending on social media in the Netherlands. To some, it was another preposterous display by the 36-year-old former academic, who has accused the government led by Rutte’s center-right Freedom and Democracy party, or VVD, of allowing “people with cultures completely different from ours” to enter the country. To others, it was a sign of a renewed nationalist push in a struggling European Union.

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