No triumph for ultra-right in Netherlands; French vote looms

Polls predicted that the Islamophobe Geert Wilder’s Party of Freedom (PVV), a racist, xenophobic party that also opposes the European Union, would win big in the March 15 Dutch election. It didn’t. Its vote rose from only 10 percent to 13 percent.

Interest in Wilder’s fate was great not only in the Netherlands. It was closely watched because of what it might foretell about the possibility that Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the ultra-right National Front (FN) in France, might be elected president in late April elections there.

In the Netherlands, while the center-right Liberal-Democratic party (VVD) of Prime Minister Mark Rutte saw its vote decline from 26 percent to 21 percent, it still came in first, and will try to form a coalition government. Its two allies, the Christian Democratic Party and a center-left party, saw their votes increase from 16 percent to 24 percent.

The vaguely ecologist, left-wing party “Groenlinks” went from 2 percent to 9 percent, and the Denk, a new party based in the Moroccan and Turkish communities, got three seats.

Since voting is strictly proportional nationwide, the number of seats equals the percentage of votes, and the VVD will have to pick up another coalition partner to form a government. It is normal in the Netherlands to govern with a broad ­coalition.

Wil van der Klift, the secretary general of the New Communist Party of the Netherlands, in an interview with the German daily newspaper Junge Welt said following the elections, “We must be able to talk more about the everyday life of people. We try to be more visible in businesses and neighborhoods. I think we have a good chance of doing that because there are quite a few young people who are interested in our positions lately.”

Although Wilder’s PVV did less well than predicted, this was partly because its right-wing and centrist competitors adopted major portions of its anti-immigrant platform, but with a softer voice. According to some analysts, Dutch voters, frightened or repulsed by the Donald Trump presidency, were hesitant to back someone like Wilders, who identified closely with the Trump program and style.

France

In France, the FN also opposes the European Union and is just as anti-Islam, racist and xenophobic as Wilder’s PVV. Islam is the religion with the largest number of adherents in France, which is a ­nuclear-armed, major economic power in Europe and a major imperialist presence in Africa and the Middle East. About 20 percent to 30 percent of French electors have voted for the FN in recent elections.

The two parties that have alternated control of the French government — the Socialist Party (PS), which is socialist in name only, and a center-right party now called The Republicans (LR) — have kept the FN out of office. Now both face serious electoral trouble, which could open the door to Le Pen.

Benoît Hamon, the PS candidate, was a minister in the most unpopular French administration in recent decades, and has been unable to rally the PS behind his candidacy. The Republicans’ candidate is François Fillon, who is under the French equivalent of an indictment for corruption.

Emmanuel Macron, who was a minister of the economy in the PS government and part of the party’s right wing, quit to form his own party, Onwards! Before that, this elite, rich, privileged politician was a private banker at the Rothschild Bank in Paris.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the major progressive candidate in the race, is running on the Indomitable France ticket, which has the support of France’s Communist Party. Mélenchon is polling fifth.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are leading the polling, with Fillon and Hamon in third and fourth place, well behind Macron and Le Pen.

France’s election involves two rounds, scheduled for the end of April and the beginning of May. The two top finishers in the first round — most likely Macron and Le Pen — compete in the second round a week later.

Polls favor Macron over Le Pen, but an expected demagogic attack on Macron’s elitist history could still favor the FN candidate.