Early last year, after the Netherlands was stunned by the victory of an upstart far-right party in provincial elections, I wondered whether the Forum for Democracy and its flamboyant 37-year-old leader, Thierry Baudet, would survive the inevitable scrutiny of their newfound prominence. Now we know, as the FvD is collapsing in spectacular fashion.
But just like the FvD’s victory did not mean that the Netherlands was taking a sharp rightward turn, the party’s dramatic demise does not bring an end to the country’s far right. As it crumbles, it is revealing the stubborn ideological ugliness that lies partly hidden in the Netherlands.
The Dutch right is not dying. Instead, as the FvD leaders battle over the wreckage of a party undone by evidence of anti-Semitism and a disturbing openness to preposterous conspiracy theories, the big winner is another familiar figure: the no less histrionic Geert Wilders, whose place atop the populist right was briefly threatened by Baudet.