FINANCIAL TIMES: ‘DE NEDERLANDERS KIEZEN MASSAAL EN JUICHEND VOOR PRO-EU PARTIJEN EN VOOR HUN NIEUWE FUHRER FRANZ TIMMERMANN’ * IS DE NEDERLANDSE FRAUDE BEDOELD OM DE ‘RODE LOPER’ UIT TE ROLLEN NAAR VERGELIJKBARE FRAUDES IN ANDERE EU-LANDEN? * FRAUDE IN ENGELAND STAAT REEDS VAST
Frans Timmermans, the centre-left candidate to become the next president of the European Commission, has welcomed growing backing for pro-EU parties in the Netherlands after voters turned out in bigger numbers in Thursday’s European parliamentary elections. The Dutch commissioner said he was optimistic Europe’s socialist parties would mount a resurgence in the pan-European vote, after estimated turnout in the Dutch election rose to 41 per cent, up from 37 per cent in 2014. Speaking after the close of polls in the Netherlands on Thursday night and after local media reported the turnout increase may have unexpectedly benefited his Labour party, Mr Timmermans said: “I hope that this gives a tailwind for a lot of other social democrats in Europe.”
The Netherlands election campaign has been framed as a choice between the pro and anti-EU groups in a country that has become a bellwether for political shifts towards populist and anti-establishment forces in Europe over the past decade. But opinion polls in the Netherlands show voters have shifted significantly towards supporting membership of the eurozone and the EU after Brexit. A rebound for the Dutch Labour party would be a surprise in the Netherlands after the party suffered its worst ever result in national elections two years ago when it lost more than three-quarters of its seats in parliament. It would come after two years of decline in support for centre-left parties across Europe.
The resilience of mainstream parties would bode ill for populist Eurosceptic parties across Europe who are seeking to consolidate inside the European Parliament under two wings led by Italy’s League under Matteo Salvini and Poland’s Law and Justice party. “There is a clear majority of people in the Netherlands, if you count them altogether, who want the European Union to continue playing a role in tackling problems that need to be solved,” said Mr Timmermans, who is one of the five lead candidates, or Spitzenkandidaten, campaigning to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president.
Previous surveys suggested that the Dutch vote was likely to confirm that Thierry Baudet, leader of an upstart anti-Islam party that supports a “Nexit”, had overtaken Geert Wilders as the Netherlands’ leading anti-EU politician. Mr Baudet’s Forum for Democracy (FvD) shocked rivals earlier this year by becoming the biggest party in the Dutch upper house of parliament, the first time it has ever taken part in regional elections. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, the leader of the liberal VVD, took on Mr Baudet in a one-to-one televised debate on the eve of the vote, where he accused his rival of wanting to recklessly leave the EU and native support for Russia.
Speaking after the close of polls, Mr Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) won four seats in 2014, expressed disappointment over his party’s electoral prospects. The PVV has aligned itself with an alliance led by Mr Salvini and France’s Marine Le Pen. Mr Baudet’s FvD has aligned itself with the European Conservatives and Reformists group that will be led by the Law and Justice and include British Conservative MEPs. Most EU voters will head to the polls over the weekend, with initial official results from across Europe expected late on Sunday night.
This story has been corrected since publication to reflect that official turnout has increased from 37 per cent in 2014 to 41 per cent.