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Did Trump hurt Geert Wilders’ bid for Dutch power?

Mike Corder
Associated Press

The Hague, Netherlands — If far-right Geert Wilders is looking for somebody to blame for his disappointing showing in the Dutch election, he could point to a couple of possible candidates: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump.

That’s the assessment of Matthijs Rooduijn, an assistant professor at Utrecht University who researches the rise of populist radical parties, and other Dutch political experts.

Erdogan’s diplomatic spat with the Netherlands, which erupted over the weekend, allowed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to portray himself as a tough statesman on the eve of Wednesday’s national vote, Rooduijn said Thursday. In addition, Trump’s early chaotic days in the White House showed potential Wilders voters that putting populist policies into practice can trigger turmoil, he added.

But ultimately, Dutch politicians muscling into Wilders’ traditional far-right territory may have cost the firebrand lawmaker the most votes.

In Wednesday’s election for The Netherland’s 150-seat lower house of Parliament, Wilders’ Party for Freedom, or PVV, got just over 13 percent of the vote. That was enough for 20 seats and second place behind Rutte’s conservative VVD party, which easily won the election with 21 percent of the vote and 33 seats.

This means that Rutte almost certainly will lead the next Dutch government. On Thursday, the chairwoman of Parliament’s lower house, Khadija Arib, appointed Edith Schippers of Rutte’s VVD party to investigate possible government coalitions.

Analysts agree that Rutte likely got a boost in the crucial closing days of campaigning, when he plunged diplomatic relations with NATO ally Turkey into the deep freeze by refusing to allow two Turkish ministers to address gatherings about a Turkish referendum on constitutional reforms that would give Erdogan more power. Turkey’s foreign minister was refused permission to land in the Netherlands while Ankara’s family minister was barred from entering her country’s consulate in Rotterdam and was escorted out of the country to Germany.

“It was a great opportunity for him to present himself as a strong leader, someone who really cares about Dutch pride,” said Rooduijn. “That is something that many potential Wilders voters find really important.”