In Depth

What does Dutch election mean for populism in Europe?

Netherlands was a 'litmus test', but France will be the 'bellweather election', say commentators

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's victory over Eurosceptic, anti-Islam Geert Wilders comes as a "huge relief to other EU governments facing a wave of nationalism", writes the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Netherlands' election was widely seen as a litmus test for the strength of anti-establishment populism ahead of upcoming votes in France and Germany later this year.

However, says The Guardian, it is too soon to applaud a return to political normalcy.

France holds its first round of general election votes on April 23, with a run-off two weeks later on May 7 if no candidate receives more than 50 per cent support.

According to CNN, a series of terrorist attacks, along with an influx of refugees, has pushed right-wing leader Marine Le Pen into the front.

It will be "the real bellwether election," writes Cornell University's professor Mabel Berezin, adding: "That is where the populist action is and that is what we should be focusing upon."

While Le Pen, the anti-EU leader of the populist National Front, leads in the polls, Francois Fillon will attempt to keep the centre-right vote for the Republicans.

Meanwhile, centrist Emmanuel Macron, a former banker who founded his political movement, En Marche!, two years ago, promising to heal France's ethnic and economic tensions, is hoping to sweep up votes both left and right.

In Germany, however, the sun may have already set on the potential for a populist uprising.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy to one million refugees in 2015 led to a huge backlash and a sudden explosion in support for the nationalist, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

But support has dipped and tensions have calmed since a Turkish-EU pact curbed the flow of migrants.

Last month, one German pollster suggested populism's biggest triumph - Donald Trump - may also prove its downfall.

"The chaotic leadership of US President Donald Trump, who was at first celebrated, is tending to cause alarm given the crises around the world," Manfred Guellner told Reuters.

Infographic by Statista.com for TheWeek.co.uk

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