The Roots of Contemporary Populism in the Netherlands

The Roots of Contemporary Populism in the Netherlands by Yvonne Zonderop forms part of the second phase of Counterpoint’s “Recapturing Europe’s Reluctant Radicals” project. This second phase of the project aims to draw an in-depth picture of how populism emerges in specific country contexts across Europe through ten expert written country pamphlets.

After ten years of agonising and soul-searching debate, the Netherlands finally seems at ease with the rise of populism. Fear and anger have made way for acceptance. Today, populist parties are considered to be part of the national political landscape. They have been integrated into Dutch society through the typical Dutch strategy of pacification. By embracing some populist ideas, the Dutch have removed the ‘sharp edges’ of populist sentiment. As a result, Dutch populist parties attracted far fewer voters at the last election.

How could a happy and wealthy country like the Netherlands become susceptible to the lure of a range of populist politicians? Dutch journalist Yvonne Zonderop reports on how Dutch society has changed more profoundly over the last 20 years than many higher educated Dutch people would care to admit. New divisions in society fuelled the populist movement. The populists have succeeded in addressing this problem. But since this has been recognised, their importance has faded. Still, one more question remains: how can the Netherlands regain the egalitarian spirit it is famous for?

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