Europe breathes sigh of relief after 'Dutch Donald Trump' defeated

The defeat of firebrand Geert Wilders, nicknamed the "Dutch Donald Trump," in Wednesday's parliamentary Dutch elections was ardently celebrated by European leaders as a good omen for sane politics in the face of resurgent far-right movements across Europe and the United States.

"The Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said 'Whoa' to the wrong kind of populism," said the victorious incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte to a jubilant crowd late Wednesday. "Today was a celebration of democracy, we saw rows of people queuing to cast their vote, all over the Netherlands — how long has it been since we've seen that?"

Early results showed that Dutch voters, a record 81 percent of whom came out to cast their ballot, delivered the victory to Rutte's center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), awarding him 33 out of the 150 parliamentary seats. Wilders' Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) won only 20 seats, a letdown after the high expectations promoted in recent days.

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A Malaysia Airlines plane is seen on the tarmac at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on July 21, 2014. Malaysia Airlines said it would offer full refunds to customers who want to cancel their tickets in the wake of the MH17 disaster, just months after the carrier suffered another blow when flight MH370 disappeared. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ROZSYPNE, UKRAINE - JULY 20: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Debris from an Malaysia Airlines plane crash lies in a field on July 20, 2014 in Rozsypne, Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed yesterday on the Ukraine/Russia border near the town of Shaktersk. The Boeing 777 was carrying 298 people including crew members, the majority of the passengers being Dutch nationals, believed to be at least 173, 44 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians and 9 Britons. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 20: Search and rescue specialists inspect at the crash area of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, near the Grabovo town, Ukraine on July 20, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 20: People lay flowers, put toys and photographs, belong passengers died in crash, upon the wreckages of plane as search and rescue specialists inspect at the crash area of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, near the Grabovo town, Ukraine on July 20, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JULY 20: Coal miners join the search of passengers as search and rescue specialists inspect at the crash area of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, near the Grabovo town, Ukraine on July 20, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Malaysia Airlines employee sits behind a closed ticket counter at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on July 20, 2014. Malaysia Airlines said it would offer full refunds to customers who want to cancel their tickets in the wake of the MH17 disaster, just months after the carrier suffered another blow when flight MH370 dissapeared. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
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The position of Wilders and his anti-immigrant, anti-EU party in the Dutch elections was anxiously monitored as a test of xenophobia and ethno-nationalism in the wake of Brexit in the United Kingdom, Donald Trump's presidency in the United States, and the resurgent anti-immigrant parties throughout the continent. The elections in the Netherlands, a socially liberal and economically stable country that is seen as a bellwether for the rest of Europe, comes ahead of parliamentary elections France in just a number of weeks, and ahead of Germany's elections in September.

The German Foreign Ministry tweeted out a warm message of congratulations to the Netherlands, saying they've raised hopes for the future of a "strong #Europe!"

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni celebrated on Twitter that despite promises made by Wilders during the campaign, there would be "No #Nexit. The anti-EU right has lost in the Netherlands. Together we will change and revive the European Union."

The election results were also hailed by the country's mostly Muslim refugee population, which feared that Wilders' platform to shutter mosques and ban the Quran would further exacerbate their already tenuous position in the country.

Wael, a Syrian refugee from Homs living in the Netherlands, told Vocativ that he was "proud of the Dutch nation because it hasn't followed in the footsteps of Trump."

"Normally whatever happens in the U.S. happens directly afterwards in The Netherlands," he said, adding that he hoped the new government would increase integration efforts.

The elections brought success for a number of left-wing parties, including the progressive Democrats 66, which appeared to have won the most votes of any left-leaning party with 19 seats.

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"During this election campaign, the whole world was watching us," said Democrats 66 leader Alexander Pechtold. "They were looking at Europe to see if this continent would follow the call of the populists, but it has now become clear that call stopped here in the Netherlands."

Other left-wing parties included the GreenLeft party, which had increased its seats from four to 16; and "DENK," a party founded by Turkish-Dutch members of parliament, which was set to take three seats.

Dutch elections come amid a diplomatic row between the EU and Turkey. Last weekend, the Dutch government prevented Turkey's foreign minister from organizing a political rally in the Netherlands ahead of an April referendum that posited expanding Erdogan's authorities.

The post Europe Breathes Sigh Of Relief After 'Dutch Donald Trump' Defeated appeared first on Vocativ.

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