“Volkert, where are you?” This reference to Volkert van der Graaf, the killer of Dutch right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn, was posted on Facebook by Corné Hanssen, who teaches at the Islam and Arabic subfaculty at the University of Utrecht. He has expressed remorse for the remark – now removed from his Facebook page – but faces an internal inquiry and possibly criminal prosecution.
The remarks were made after a massive election victory by the Forum for Democracy headed by Thierry Baudet in Dutch provincial elections on Wednesday. Voters elected 570 provincial representatives in The Netherland’s twelve provinces. Those elected will in turn choose the 150 members of the Senate, or “Eerste Kamer”.
If the provincial candidates stick to their political colors, Baudet, who is on friendly terms with France’s former Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jared Taylor, an American white supremacist, will have a substantial bloc in the 150-member Senate with 12 seats. The current coalition (Liberals, Christian Democrats and two other parties) will lose their majority.
Baudet presents himself as an eccentric intellectual, once spoke in Latin during a parliamentary session and had a grand piano moved into his offices.
He entered politics in 2016 with the Forum for Democracy which started out as a think-tank and rose to international notoriety when it successfully campaigned against the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement after initiating a referendum that forced The Netherlands, as the only EU member, to vote against the treaty.
The rise of the Forum for Democracy follows an increasing pull to the right in Dutch politics that started with the emergence of Pim Fortuyn, who was killed in 2002 by an animal activist, just before the elections.
His “List Pim Fortuyn” became a massive force in parliament, but went under as a result of internal squabbling.
The right-wing banner was carried on by Geert Wilders’ PVV with his strong anti-EU and anti-immigration agenda, riding a wave of populist movements across Europe, including the Alternative Für Deutschland in Germany, Vox in Spain, Italy’s Five Star movement, and politicians in Hungary and Poland who apply increasingly right-wing policies.
Baudet’s appeal to Dutch voters seems to be stronger than Wilders’. “It came as a surprise to many,” says Bernard Steunenberg, a political scientist with Leiden University, who estimates that Wilders' voters “are tired of the same rhetoric, especially when they don’t see any measures that appeal to them.”
But he says that the main factor explaining Baudet’s victory is “the enormous emphasis in the last six months on climate change and the measures the Dutch would take to combat global warming.”
Like the gilets jaunes in France, many Dutch grew increasingly opposed to measures to be taken, especially when it appeared that consumers would pay an average of 250 euros per year more for their energy costs. The Forum for Democracy made it one of its campaign topcis, saying that citizens should not be hit.
But Steunenberg adds that the Forum may face the same fate as Wilders’ PVV “if they don’t deliver much on their promises made to citizens.”