CORNELL UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICEMarch 15, 2017 Dutch election not bellwether for populist rise in Europe

Preliminary exit poll results in the Netherlands suggest that Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Party for Freedom performed below expectations gaining only 19 of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament. Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University and author of “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe” and “Europe Without Borders,” says that today’s performance by Wilders’ party is not the real bellwether of European populism.


Berezin says:

"It is tempting to consider every political poll suspect and every election as a sign of the global populist wave, after the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. But in evaluating the significance of Wilders’ electoral performance in the Netherlands we should not ignore history.

“Wilders has been around Dutch politics for a while, supporting free market capitalism and campaigning against Islam. He does not represent a populist wave. Rather, he is part of the political landscape and how his party fares does not tell us much about European populism.

“There is a general mood of discontent and anger at elites that appears to be running through all elections in the last year. But, what can we make of one election result either way? For example – in December, the Austrians fended off a right wing presidency that seemed a near certainty in the spring. Does that mean that right wing populism is gone from Austria? Hardly.

“The real bellwether election will be Marine Le Pen’s quest for the French presidency, starting April 23 – that is where the populist action is and that is what we should be focusing upon.”

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