Dutch PM Campaign Rhetoric Veers Right

With only one month until the Netherlands general election, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that those who reject Dutch values have the choice to leave the country. In a personal address ‘to all Netherlanders’, Rutte expressed his concern of uncivil interactions among the Dutch population, such as fights. Additionally, Rutte conceded that the people recommended to leave the country includedimmigrants who abuse the freedoms here to impose their cultural values on us. Other party leaders have likened Rutte’s rhetoric to that of far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders — a populist candidate with an infamous anti-immigrant platform — and have admonished his campaign. Wilders was a figure, who had previously dominated the national headlines with his anti-immigrant platform. On December 9, Wilders was found guilty of inciting and advocating discrimination in comments he made about Moroccans in the Netherlands.

Rutte’s rightward shift, which has parallels to Wilders’ platform, likely serves to appease Dutch voters in the upcoming election. Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), is currently leading the polls: as of February 5, they are expected to win 30 out of 150 parliamentary seats, while Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is expected to win 25 seats. Should the PVV win the most seats, it will still need to form a coalition with other parties to reach the governing majority threshold of 76 seats.

All major Dutch parties have indicated that they will not form a coalition with the PVV. The Dutch will go to the polls on March 15, in an election marking a shift from traditional Dutch campaign issues about the economy to the question of a consolidated Dutch identity.