Hi Pieter, thanks for joining us today.

Before we look ahead at the current landscape, may I attempt to put a bow on the events that transpired leading up to the March 15 elections.

There was a lot of concern mounting as Geert Wilders held a lead in polls for most of the year leading up to the elections. As we learned observing the US elections, the polls don't always tell the full story, but is there a reason we can assess where the sampling went wrong in this instance?
And is there a specific point in the campaign where we can identify when the margins narrowed?
The polls weren't that wrong: they suggested Wilders losing popularity given that he didn't properly campaign: mainpy tweeting, avoiding TV debates etc.

What happened is that PM Rutte took up some of the concerns expressed by Wilders but without copying his solutions. Then Erdogan allowed Rutte to prove he was for real.

Fair enough, perhaps the coverage exaggerated his lead at times. But, there was definitely a looming sense that change was afoot.

And now I'm trying to assess how much change actually occurred. From way back here it's difficult to know what shift, if any, we witnessed in the Netherlands. Some points of interest I noted include:

  • --  the Labour Party's representation was absolutely decimated
  • --  though Wilders Party for Freedom (PVV) didn't win a majority, they did come in second for the first time, continuing their gradual rise in representation
  • --  as you've written on, Mark Rutte was forced to come out stronger on certain issues, such as immigration

  • So at the end of the day how should we reflect on the elections and the lasting effects of Wilders campaign?

Dutch Labour's fall from grace is a result of the fact that they abandoned their ideology and became too managerial, in the same way the European centre left is slowly being eroded, really since Tony Blair's downfall and along with the bankruptcies of the welfare states they wrongly claimed to be sustainable.

Wilders did indeed come second and still did proceed, but much less than the polls indicated for the last 2 years, mainly as a result of the mainstream taking over some of his euroscepticism and criticism towards unrestricted migration. This was a good response, largely, given that there are some real issues that needed to be addressed, as for example problematic integration leading to terrorist attacks and the refugee chaos during 2015-2016. There are liberal solutions as an alternative to the far right recipes of Wilders.

Wilders has softened his tone since the elections but I suspect he has separated himself too much now from the mainstream so maybe a new party can fill this gap.
Regarding those liberal solutions you mention, to the issues highlighted by the far-right candidates, do you believe that is how politicians should be countering populist candidates in upcoming elections? And what should we be keeping an eye on as we look ahead to 2017 elections in France & Germany?
Examples of those liberal solutions are for example to take action against those who have been denied asylum but nevertheless ignore orders to leave (that's also unfair to those asylum seekers who respect the rules), tackling lawlessness in dodgy areas where poorer people live and liberalising labour market rules and high taxes on labour as this destroys jobs, certainly for those with poor language skills, which as a result complicates their integration into society.

As for the elections in France, it will be interesting to see if far right politician Marine Le Pen makes it into the second round. If she then would face independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, one risk could be that he would be perceived as someone representing the status quo, especially as he's now being endorsed by politicians from President Hollande's socialist party.

In Germany, we'll likely see either a new big coalition of christian democrats and social democrats, with the real question being whether Merkel or Martin Schulz' formation will come first and deliver the Chancellor. A small chance is a coalition with Schulz including greens and far left or one with Merkel including greens and liberal. The rightwing populist AfD has lost support but is still quite certain to enter the Bundestag, all a result of Merkel's turn to the left.
Speaking of coalitions, what is the status of the coalition government in the Netherlands following the election? How will it compare to the recent past?