quarta-feira, 15 de março de 2017

PM Mark Rutte on course to beat Geert Wilders in Dutch election / Wilders fica abaixo do esperado nas eleições na Holanda / Dutch general election: a finger in the wind, not a litmus test

PM Mark Rutte on course to beat Geert Wilders in Dutch election
Exit poll suggests voters in Netherlands did not turn to Freedom party, with Rutte facing choice of coalition options

Jon Henley in The Hague
Thursday 16 March 2017 02.15 GMT

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, and his liberal VVD party appear to have comfortably beaten the anti-Islam Freedom party of Geert Wilders to become the largest in the new parliament, a usually reliable exit poll suggested.

In the first of three key European votes this year in which populist parties are seeking electoral breakthroughs, the VVD lost 10 seats but was still on course to return 31 MPs to the 150-seat parliament, the Ipsos poll predicted.

Three other parties – the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDA), liberal-progressive D66 and Wilders’ populist PVV – were projected to gain between four and seven seats each, all finishing up with 19 MPs.

“Our message to the Netherlands – that we will hold our course, and keep this country safe, stable and prosperous, got through,” Rutte told a cheering crowd of supporters at the VVD’s election night party.

The eyes of Europe had been on the vote, he added. “Many European colleagues have called me this evening: this was an evening when after Brexit and Trump, the Netherlands said ‘Stop’ to the wrong sort of populism.”

Relieved European politicians were quick to applaud the result. “Congratulations to the Netherlands for having halted the advance of the far right,” tweeted Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French foreign minister.

Wilders tweeted that since the VVD had lost seats and the PVV had gained, his party was “among the winners”, adding: “If all the losers like the VVD form a government, we need to have a strong opposition of winners like the PVV.”

The leftwing environmentalists of GreenLeft looked the big winners of the night, as the party was forecast to quadruple its number of MPs to 16. But the social democratic Labour party (PvdA), Rutte’s outgoing coalition partner, was forecast to slump to a historic low of nine seats from 38 in the current parliament.

Mark Rutte says Dutch people have rejected ‘wrong sort of populism’
The projected result would leave Rutte with a choice of coalition options, although coalition-building – with four parties likely to be needed – could take months: the average in the Netherlands is three months and the record more than 200 days.

Both Wilders and Rutte had framed the vote as a barometer for nativist populism. Casting his ballot in The Hague early on Wednesday, Wilders said: “Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle. People feel misrepresented.”

Wilders, who has pledged to “de-Islamise” the Netherlands and take it out of the EU, was widely seen as unlikely to enter government however he fared: no other main party will work with the PVV in coalition.

The vote was being keenly watched across the continent. After the UK’s vote to leave the EU and Trump’s “America first” upset last year, and before the French presidential elections in May and the German parliamentary poll in September, a first-place finish for the PVV would have rocked Europe.

Informal coalition talks will begin on Thursday, although the process does not formally get under way until 23 March, when the new parliament sits for the first time. Rutte will be seeking a majority of 76 seats, probably with other mainstream parties including the CDA, PvdA and D66.

Turnout was 82%, the highest for 30 years, the exit poll showed, with 25% of voters in Amsterdam casting their ballot by midday, nearly double the figure in the previous 2012 election.

Rutte was also thought to have benefited from his cool handling of a fierce row with Turkey over the government’s refusal to allow Turkish ministers to address rallies of Dutch Turks before a referendum next month on plans to grant Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sweeping new powers.

Erdoğan has reacted furiously to the Dutch decision, repeatedly accusing the government of behaving like Nazis, suspending high-level political contacts, threatening trade sanctions, and claiming the Netherlands was guilty of the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.

Analysis Dutch general election: a finger in the wind, not a litmus test
After Brexit and Trump’s triumph – and with Marine Le Pen making waves – some saw this contest as continuity versus chaos. But the pattern did not fit
Read more
In a campaign dominated by Wilders’ core themes of immigration and integration, the row “allowed Rutte to show himself as a statesman – and to send a Turkish minister packing”, said André Krouwel, a political scientist at Amsterdam’s Free University.

In a possibly unrelated incident, two big Dutch voting information websites were targeted by a cyberattack on Wednesday. Several Twitter accounts including those of the European parliament, the German newspaper Die Welt and Amnesty International were also hacked, apparently by pro-Erdoğan activists.

Voting earlier in The Hague, Sonja van Spronsen, a 45-year-old office worker, said she hoped the next government could produce a “good, convivial Netherlands. Not just arguing and complaining but with a good positive vision of how to move forward that we can all get behind.”

Ben Baks, a 60-year-old civil servant, said he had voted GreenLeft but wanted to see a rainbow coalition combining parties from left and right. “Whatever happens, we need a country that’s governable,” he said. “We need to send out a strong signal to other European countries.”

But Donny Bonsink, a 24-year-old chef, was for Wilders. “Islamisation in the Netherlands has to stop,” he said. “We’ve had governments trying to make immigration work for 40 years and all it’s brought us is problems. People are angry.”

Wilders fica abaixo do esperado nas eleições na Holanda
Primeiro-ministro Mark Rutte é o claro vencedor, enquanto o segundo lugar era disputado pela extrema-direita, democratas-cristãos e liberais. A esquerda tem uma enorme subida e os sociais-democratas uma grande queda

MARIA JOÃO GUIMARÃES em Amesterdão 15 de Março de 2017, 21:53

A descida dos grandes partidos é a principal novidade das eleições na Holanda: o vencedor, do primeiro-ministro Mark Rutte (centro-direita), conseguiu cerca de 20% dos votos e apenas 31 deputados num Parlamento de 150 segundo as sondagens à boca das urnas divulgadas pela estação de televisão NOS. A grande subida da extrema-direita de Geert Wilders acabou por ser menor do que o antecipado, e segundo as sondagens à boca das urnas, o seu Partido da Liberdade surgia empatado com dois outros, o CDA (democratas-cristãos) e o D66 (liberal), todos com uma projecção de 19 deputados cada.

Outro partido que se destaca é a Esquerda Verde (GL), do jovem Jesse Klaver, que aos 30 anos consegue levar o partido ao seu melhor resultado – de 4 deputados no Parlamento anterior, o partido de esquerda deverá conseguir 16, um claro quinto lugar.

Para formar Governo o próximo primeiro-ministro precisa de uma maioria de 76 deputados, ou seja, quatro partidos no mínimo mas eventualmente mais, dependendo das possibilidades de harmonização dos programas de cada um e de quanto está disposto a conceder.

Durante meses, o político de extrema-direita Geert Wilders esteve a liderar as sondagens, com valores que chegaram aos 20% das intenções de voto, graças à descida vertiginosa dos partidos do Governo, o Partido da Liberdade e Democracia, do primeiro-ministro Mark Rutte (centro-direita) e o Partido Trabalhista (PvdA). Mas nas últimas duas semanas Wilders desceu e Rutte subiu, e nas últimas sondagens da véspera das eleições os números eram tão díspares que ninguém se atrevia Wilders reagiu aos resultados no Twitter: "Rutte não se viu ainda livre de mim".

Segundo analistas, a posição de Rutte face à Turquia – recusando a vinda do ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros para fazer campanha – deu-lhe mais força - assim o partido do primeiro-ministro parece ter-se saído menos mal do que o antecipado. Apesar dessa recuperação, fica com menos dez deputados. A queda que se confirma é a do Partido Trabalhista (PvdA), que terá conseguido eleger apenas 9 deputados (de 38 no Parlamento cessante). Parceiros de Rutte no Governo, terão pago a participação no programa de austeridade, contrária aos valores do partido.

Os liberais do D66, cujo líder, Alexander Pechtold, se assumiu como um claro opositor a Wilders, acabam empatados com este. Conseguem mais 7 deputados, enquanto o partido de Wilders obtém apenas mais 4 do que na última votação (e menos do que em 2010, quando chegou a ter 24 deputados).

Entram ainda vários outros partidos no Parlamento, do Partido dos Animais ao Denk, formado por imigrantes, mas que tem mostrado algumas posições pró-Presidente turco Erdogan, o que o tornou polémico.

A participação nas eleições, feitas a uma quarta-feira por várias razões, incluindo a objecção dos protestantes ortodoxos a que se realize ao domingo, foi maior do que nas anteriores: 81% dos eleitores participaram. A Holanda facilita muito a votação, permitindo que o eleitor vote pessoalmente ou entregue o seu voto a outra pessoa, desde que identificada. O boletim de voto é individual e recebido pelo correio.

Dutch general election: a finger in the wind, not a litmus test
After Brexit and Trump’s triumph – and with Marine Le Pen making waves – some saw this contest as continuity versus chaos. But the pattern did not fit
Jon Henley European affairs correspondent
Wednesday 15 March 2017 22.15 GMT Last modified on Thursday 16 March 2017 01.17 GMT

One down, two to go. As the first major election since Britain opted to leave the EU and the US elected Donald Trump, the Dutch general election was widely seen as a litmus test for the strength of anti-establishment populism ahead of similar European votes this year.

A win for Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam, anti-EU Freedom party was to have been the third domino to fall in a series that could include a win for Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, a strong showing by the anti-migrant AfD in Germany – and the possible disintegration of the EU.

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, cast the Dutch election in that light this week, saying that – following the upsets of Brexit and Trump – he saw it as the “quarter-final” in a five-round competition, in which “the semi-finals are the French elections, and the final the German election”.

It suited Rutte to frame the election as a head-to-head battle between his centre-right, liberal VVD and Wilders’ PVV, allowing him to present it as a clash between status quo and populism, continuity and chaos.

But there are several reasons why the pattern did not really fit – and why a Wilders victory, while undeniably a powerful symbolic blow, would not necessarily have set in motion a chain of events to threaten the bloc’s survival.

The Dutch poll differed from Trump’s election and the Brexit referendum. Those were one-on-one, winner-take-all contests for which the victor needed 50% – or in the US poll, very nearly 50% – of the vote.

In the Netherlands, 28 parties were standing, six of which – according to exit polls – were projected to end up with 10 or more MPs in the 150-seat parliament.

Rutte’s VVD was on course to be by far the largest party on 31 seats, with Wilders’ PVV trailing on 19.

The result was always going to be a coalition of at least four, possibly five, parties that will take months to form and have to govern by compromise and consensus. And all main parties had vowed not to work with Wilders.

So even if the PVV had ended up as the largest party, it would almost certainly have been locked out of government.

Even if it had not been, in order to pass new legislation it would have needed, as well as the lower house, the Dutch senate on board – where it currently has nine out of 75 seats.

Wilders may prompt comparisons with Trump and Brexit – in hairstyle, campaign slogan (“Take our country back”), presentation and predilection for Twitter – but it was never clear how much of his programme he could have implemented in practice.

Nor were the Dutch likely to vote to leave the EU any time soon. The prospect of a “Nexit” referendum had gained currency abroad, but the other parties would not have backed it and there is no evidence a majority of voters would either.

The far right in France and Germany would, certainly, have hailed a Wilders win as a nativist, anti-establishment triumph.

But despite loudly welcoming both Brexit and Trump as the beginning of a “patriotic revolution”, the Front National in France and AfD in Germany saw no improvement in their polling afterwards.

The French presidential election, taking place over two rounds in April and May, resembles the UK and US votes more closely: unlike the Netherlands, this will be a one-on-one, winner-takes-all contest – and the French are electing a president, not a parliament.

Though wildly unpredictable, the second round runoff looks set to pit Le Pen against the centrist independent Emmanuel Macron. Current polling gives Macron a 20-point lead, but a Le Pen victory remains very possible.

That would prove a seismic shock, not least to markets which fear the far-right candidate will deliver on her campaign promises: taking France out of the euro and putting the terms of a “new relationship” with the EU to a referendum.

Neither the EU nor the euro would survive that. Crucially, however, the French will also be electing their parliament in June – which could make it difficult, if not impossible, for a President Le Pen to organise a Frexit referendum.

France’s constitution contains the phrase: “The Republic is part of the European Union.”

Changing that constitution requires the approval of both the lower and upper houses, plus a referendum on the change.

At present, the Front National has two of the 577 MPs in the lower house. For a majority, it would need to win 287 more in June’s parliamentary elections. (It also has two senators in the upper house, out of 348.)

Moreover, while a French president can in principle call a referendum without the backing of congress, he or she cannot do so without the permission of France’s constitutional court – which would be unlikely to give it.

And even if, against all odds, Le Pen did manage to call a referendum on France’s exit, nothing yet suggests a majority of voters would back it (or, indeed a move to abandon the euro).

It is difficult to underestimate the strength of the psychological blow a Le Pen victory would deliver to Europe.

The bloc would be rocked to its foundations. But it is unclear how many of her EU plans she will be able to put into practice.

In Germany, similarly, the advance of the rightwing, populist Alternative für Deutschland, riding high on on Europe’s migrant crisis, once looked unstoppable. But it peaked at 15% in September and is now down to 8%.

On that form, while it may well win seats in the federal parliament for the first time, its chances of taking part in coalition talks in September look slim – especially since the larger centrist parties have refused to work with it.

However many – if any – dominos fall this year, the end of the liberal world order may not quite be nigh.

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