The new extreme right takes hold in the Netherlands | International

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The Dutch regional elections on Wednesday have turned the national political landscape upside down. Forum for Democracy, a eurosceptic party that advocates closing borders, curbing immigration and protecting indigenous values, has stormed the Senate with 13 seats. He had none so far, but he is already the new extreme right, headed by Thierry Baudet, 36, who has had two deputies in Congress since 2017. Willing to unseat his best-known rival, Geert Wilders, the xenophobic leader of the Party for Freedom, Baudet has managed to make the ruling center-right coalition lose a majority in the Senate. It is set at 38 seats (out of a total of 75) and in the end they have stayed together at 31. Passing laws will cost them much more effort.

In the Netherlands, the parties chosen in regional elections in turn elect senators. Baudet has scratched votes from Wilders and the right-wing liberals, the largest group in the country and of which Prime Minister Mark Rutte is a part. The anti-Muslim leader has won 5 seats and Rutte 12. He also spoiled the party for Izquierda Verde and its boss, Jesse Klaver, who seemed to be launched during the electoral campaign. Although it goes from 4 to 9 senators, and surpasses the rest of the left, it could not with him.

On Wednesday night, with the vote count fresh, Theo Hiddema, MP along with Baudet in Congress, spoke of "a new spring and a new melody." His boss was made to wait. He was preparing a winner's speech, and for 20 minutes he assured in a presidential tone that "we have been called to the front row because the country needs us and the stage of political cessions has concluded."

He praised the "magnificent people of which we are a part, with hundreds of thousands of years of history and whose rulers have failed them." He criticized "the entry of thousands of people who come from cultures opposed to ours, in case we didn't have enough problems with immigration." He discarded "the wizardry of the climate, the idolatry of sustainability, and the indoctrination of the left," and said: "We are the party of rebirth (of Holland and democracy). Dressed in blue with a matching tie, his raised right index finger was both a sign of strength and a warning to his rivals.

Fall of far-right Geert Wilders

Ousted by the almost newcomer, Geert Wilders, 55, accused the blow and tried to stir. “Now that a new party sounds similar to ours, the loss of seats (it went from 9 to 5) is more contained. The unique style of the game will continue to show, ”he said, looking tired. The politician split from right-wing liberals in 2004 to found his Party for Freedom, and is the second largest political force in the Netherlands. Wilders has 20 seats in Congress, but no one wants to agree with him. Hence his entire political career has been developed in the opposition, except in 2010. He supported the first Rutte Cabinet from Parliament, which was in the minority. The financial crisis took its toll, and in 2012 Wilders withdrew his support. The government fell and elections were called.

While Wilders' speech has always focused on his rejection of Islam, Baudet has been more subtle. The first defends closing all the mosques in the country. The second is committed to reducing its minarets, because according to him in the Dutch cultural tradition what predominates "are the large churches." What they both share is a Eurosceptic stance and the rejection of spending derived from the fight against the climate, although it seems that the newcomer flirts with certain issues because it is more provocative from the right. It is true that he has taken advantage of the democratic legitimacy obtained by Wilders' speech, but he has managed to convince the electorate that they are the very engine of change, not just a victim. It remains to be seen how far Baudet will want to be associated with the European extreme right from now on, and if his obvious nationalism is more civic than ethnic, as is the case with his opponent.

Baudet, a neophyte who plays the piano in his office

Compared to this, and to the constant protection surrounding the death-threatened xenophone leader, Thierry Baudet is a neophyte. He has not yet suffered the chill of his political baptism. Baudet is the only one who did not suspend the electoral campaign after the shooting last Monday in Utrecht, which left three dead and five seriously injured and it is not yet known whether it was terrorist in nature. With a degree in History and a doctorate in Law, he is the son of a music teacher. He boasts of dating in Latin and playing the piano in his official office. His call to the voter "to do something for Holland", has put the Government in trouble.

For now, just go up and up. In 2017, his party had 1,863 members. In 2019 they were already over 30,000. On the other hand, the direct democracy based on referendums that he advocates, and his desire to form a government “with apolitical experts”, brings him good results among the electorate. Rutte had to fight hard to enter the position and has chosen to avoid any reference to the rival. Congratulations aside, he prefers to emphasize that "we right-wing liberals are still the first party, the true party of the people." Baudet, who is in a hurry, has called him "a little man willing to do anything for a pact."

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