Dutch prime minister calls on country to resist far-right populism ahead of election: 'Remember Brexit and Trump'

Samuel Osborne
Far right politician Geert Wilders has been running neck and neck with the Netherlands’s Prime Minister: Getty

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called on voters to stop “the domino effect of the wrong sort of populism” in this week’s election.

“Remember the Brexit. We all thought that would never happen. Remember the US elections,” Mr Rutte told said in Rotterdam.

“So let’s not make that mistake again. These elections are crucial.”

He added: “Let us stop the domino effect right this week, this Wednesday. The domino effect of the wrong sort of populism winning in this world.”

The prime minister said there was a real possibility his opponent, the nationalist anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, could win the parliamentary election.

“There is a real risk that on March 16 we can wake up in this country and Geert Wilders is leading the biggest party and that will send a signal to the rest of the world,” he warned.

The Dutch election is being watched as a key indicator for the future of populism in Europe after Britain’s vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election.

It also seen as a test of anti-immigration sentiment, especially since a diplomatic row with Turkey put immigration and nationalism at the very top of the political agenda.

Mr Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) has been sliding in polls recently but is still close to running neck and neck with Mr Rutte’s party, hopes the clashes between Turkish-Dutch protesters and the police will help bolster his chances of victory.

While his party has virtually no chance of forming a government, as other parties have ruled out a coalition with his party, a PVV win would nevertheless send shock waves across Europe.

The French presidential election begins next month, with the far-right Marine Le Pen ahead in one poll, and in September Alternative for Germany, a right-wing, Eurosceptic party, is likely to win seats for the first time in the German federal parliament.

It remains to be seen whether the row with Turkey will favour Mr Wilders or Mr Rutte, whose cabinet banned Turkish ministers from holding a rally.

Turkey wants to lobby support among Dutch Turks for plans to hand greatly increased powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A snap poll by Maurice de Hond over the weekend showed 86 per cent of Dutch voters approved of Mr Rutte's handling of the Turkish issue.

“In times when the nation is hit by something like this, there's the inclination for people to get behind the government,” said Hans Gosling, political commentator at Dutch newspaper Trouw.

Mr Rutte was speaking ahead of a head-to-head debate with Mr Wildres. He has warned an election victory for Mr Wilders could plunge the Netherlands into chaos.

Mr Wilders' election platform includes closing Dutch borders to all immigrants from Muslim nations, closing all mosques and banning the Quran.

He also wants to take the Netherlands out of the European Union.

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