In Brief

Dutch populists win shock election

Anti-immigrant party wins most votes in parliamentary elections just days after Utrecht shooting

A new anti-immigrant populist party has made sweeping gains in Dutch regional elections, following a last-minute boost in the polls driven by this week’s terrorist shooting in Utrecht.

Launched in 2016 by 36-year-old Thierry Baudet, the Forum for Democracy (FvD) is on course to win 12 seats in the Dutch upper house, making it the largest party in the senate along with that of the prime minister, Mark Rutte.

“A proponent of Dutch-first cultural, social and economic policies”, The Guardian says “Baudet wants improved relations with Russia, opposes the euro, and has called for the Netherlands to leave the EU – although he has since said he will see how Brexit plays out first”.

France 24 says “the flamboyant former academic is known for controversial statements such as ‘women in general excel less in jobs and have less ambition’”.

Campaigning on a platform of more direct democracy, less immigration and climate change denial, Baudet adopted classic populist tactics which have delivered gains across Europe and around the world in recent years.

Accusing successive governments of failing to maintain strict border controls, following the results he said the “stupidity and arrogance” of the elites had been punished.

“We stand here in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilisation,” he told supporters. “We won because the country needs us.”

“Dutch right-wing populism, dominated for a decade by Wilders and his Freedom Party, has been transformed in the past two years by the rapid growth of the Forum for Democracy,” reports Politico.

The news site says “Baudet shocked establishment parties this week by blaming the government's migration policy for the Utrecht attack just hours after the shooting. All other parties had suspended campaigning.”

Three people were killed and three more seriously injured on a tram in Utrecht when Turkish-born suspect Gokmen Tanis opened fire earlier this week.

While the motivation of the shooter is not yet known, the BBC reports that “a terrorist motive is being seriously taken into account”.

“This is a combination of an honour killing and a half-terrorist motive,” Baudet told supporters at a rally, Reuters reported.

Pollsters who had not predicted the FvD would make such gains have suggested the attack could have led a last-minute surge to the party.

The Times says “its success will ring alarm bells across European capitals little more than a month before European elections, at which populist parties are expected to make gains”.

However, The Guardian says in the Netherlands “despite the populists’ improved performance it will not easily be translated into increased clout in the upper house, since the other parties have pledged not to work with them”.

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