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Explainer: Is the Netherlands about to take a big jump to the far-right?

Everything you need to know about this week’s parliamentary election.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Quarter Final - Netherlands v Costa Rica - Arena Fonte Nova Dutch football fans at the 2014 World Cup. Source: Nick Potts/PA

INTEREST IN GLOBAL politics is at somewhat of a peak right now.

In particular, right-wing populism and its impact on politics in a whole host of countries.

It’s why the French presidential elections have been getting such early international attention, and it’s also why global politicos will be looking towards the Netherlands on Wednesday.

The name Geert Wilders will not be new to anyone who pays even a passing interest in European politics, but the anti-Islam candidate’s message has put his Freedom Party (PVV) towards the top of polls.

Paradoxically though, Donald Trump’s policies since the election may have actually hurt Wilders, with the attraction of protest votes giving way to reality.

The PVV were for a brief period leading the pack but have now slipped back in the fragmented race.

Ahead of the French elections, and the equally scrutinised legislative polls in Germany later this year, here’s what to know ahead of Europe’s latest big vote.

How does it work? 

Netherlands Election Turkey Firebrand anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders. Source: Peter Dejong/PA Images

The Dutch vote has essentially come down a race between Wilders and his PVV and outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Liberals (VVD).

But there are 28 parties — a post-war record — competing for the 150 seats in the Dutch lower house of parliament. A total of 76 seats are needed for a majority.

Thanks to a complex system of proportional representation, even small parties can get seats, enabling them to play an important role in shaping the make-up and viability of the next government.

In fact, all governments in the post-war period have been coalition governments, supported by two or more parties.

Parliamentary seats are attributed according to a complicated formula based on the number of votes cast, which determines that year’s electoral quota.

What are the issues?

The influence of Wilders and the wider European political climate have converged to place immigration and integration at the heart of the debate.

Europe’s worst refugee crisis since the 1940s and its impact has made the issues more pressing.

Wilders has a one-page party manifesto which vows to close the borders to Muslim immigrants, close mosques and ban the sale of the Koran.

Source: Al Jazeera English/YouTube

In an overt bid to win over some of Wilders’s supporters, some of the other parties are increasingly insisting on bolstering what they call “Dutch values.”

Rutte told citizens with immigrant backgrounds to “act normally” and adapt to Dutch norms or “leave” the country.

The Dutch economy is performing strongly, however. The Guardian points out that unemployment is at a five-year-low with economic growth at a steady but not spectacular 2.3%.

So who’s running?

As mentioned about there are nearly 30 parties in the running, but here are the most noteworthy.

Mark Rutte’s VVD

The party of the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The party leans towards the right on the economy but is more progressive on social issues.

Rutte is vying for a third term as premier. He has vowed not to work with Wilders but has hardened his party’s tone of late and has said migrants they should respect the country’s norms “or leave”.

The party’s campaign theme is “Act. Normally.”

Geert Wilders’ PVV

Source: FRANCE 24 English/YouTube

The far-right, anti-Islam and anti-EU PVV party is led by outspoken MP Geert Wilders.

He has vowed to ban Muslim immigrants, close mosques, ban sales of the Koran and quit the EU. It’s been pointed out that many of the party’s policies breach international law and the Dutch constitution.

Wilders was recently convicted of discrimination for insulting Dutch citizens of Moroccan origin and the court case helped raise his profile further. He also has round-the-clock police protection.

The party had been leading in the polls but has since slipped back to second place. The party could take up to a third of the seats on offer but the other parties have vowed not to work with them.

The PVV’s campaign slogan is “Reclaim the Netherlands for us”.

Sybrand Buma’s CDA

The centrist Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) has long-held an important place in Dutch politics but as the country has become more secular, support has waned.

It’s currently third in the polls so it will likely be involved in some sort of anti-Wilders coalition.

GroenLinks

Netherlands Election Greens Green Left party leader Jesse Klaver. Source: Peter Dejong/PA

The Green Left party is lying about fifth in the polls and could come out with about 16-18 seats.

Its leader Jesse Klaver is the youngest of all the parties at just 30 years of age. His youth and resemblance to the Canadian Prime Minister has seen him labelled the as ‘the Dutch Justin Trudeau’.

How will a government be formed? 

Where The Trees Are A woman rides her bicycle across a bridge over Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam. Source: Margriet Faber/PA

Once the official results are announced on 21 March by the elections commission, the new Dutch parliament will be installed on 23 March.

A point person, known as an “informateur”, investigates which parties could form a coalition, and presides over negotiations between the party leaders to draw up a programme of policies.

These discussions can take weeks or even months. Dutch media has reported it takes on average three months for a new government to take office. This time, it could take even longer.

Once a programme has been set out, a person known as a “formateur” begins drawing up the possible new cabinet. The reward for this arduous task is often the top job, becoming prime minister.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2017

Read: Measures to trap suspected paedophiles among far-reaching powers in new Dutch cybercrime bill >

Read: This teddy is being reunited with its owner after being left behind at Cork Airport >

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Rónán Duffy

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