Some threats to democratic health might not be as blatant as one might think. Rather they could accompany regular developments such as a country’s immigration status. In recent years the Netherlands has paid witness to a massive influx of immigration. Specifically, the largest amount of mass immigration since the years following the Second World War. The highlight is that much of this human migration finds its roots in the Middle East region, and specifically from Muslim countries. Although the Netherlands ranks as one of the most welcoming of European countries in terms of the population who would and do accept Muslim Immigrants, the rise of the far-right in the likes of parties such as the Party For Freedom (PVV), is cause for concern. One of the sole foundations to parties like the PVV is the issue that they take with immigration from majority Muslim nations. The relevance and platform of the PVV has and remains pertinent to this day. This delivers the question as to whether the anti-immigration rhetoric and how it relates to far-right politics/populism has hurt or jeopardized democratic health in the Netherlands?
Democracy in the Netherlands to this day remains relatively high with an Electoral Integrity Score of 80/100 from the Electoral Integrity Project in 2019. Furthermore, the Sustainable Governance Indicators ranked democracy quality in the Netherlands as a 7.1/10 in the year 2018. Yet, all eyes must be open to the rise and relevance of far-right politics in the country and how it threatens the future and health of Dutch Democracy. The Party for Freedom was established in 2006 by Geert Wilders and has grown in parliamentary seats since that time, with Politico projecting further growth of favorably in the 2021 election cycle. Notably, and from its conception, the Party for Freedom or PVV has made their anti-Islamic and Eurosceptic beliefs clear. Therefore, if the trends remain consistent and the PVV and other radical parties continue to grow within the country, then this radical-right and populist like movement will negatively impact the strength of democracy in the Netherlands.
First, it is crucial to understand just how populism, and specifically European Populism, has impacted or affected the health of Democracy and Democratic institutions. In Jan-Werner Müller’s book, What is Populism, he lays out several convincing arguments as to how populism is dangerous to democratic health. First, this spread of radical or far-right politics and specifically anti-immigration policies in the Netherlands has a firm sense of denying political pluralism. More specifically how the views of a truly democratic society are all so diverse, and conversely in a populist mindset that they speak for the true voice of the people, and any opposition is just anti-nationalist or against the interest of the people. For example, claiming that Muslim immigration is bad for the Netherlands and anyone who believes otherwise does not have the true interests of the Dutch in mind. Hence, providing a growing voice and movement that is by definition counter to political pluralism and effectively undemocratic. Additionally, this avenue of political discourse is overarchingly considered or referred to as the will of the people (Party of Freedom and the Forum for Democracy Party), ideally taking a strike at the health of political participation, where are these populist platforms claim to speak for the people. The final argument as to how these parties and populism, in general, can hurt democracy is the notion of how these populists or radical parties seek to protect the countries’ liberal ideals. They feel as if the influx of Muslim immigrants and religious texts such as the Qur’an serves as a direct threat to those ideals. This effectively diminishes or juxtaposes liberal ideals in full, being that the act of claiming a religious practice to be dangerous to democracy is itself a threat to both equality and egalitarianism, and hence democracy.
The rise and adherence of populism is not the only threat that convenes with the far-right parties among the growing minority of ideals in the Netherlands. The rise of globalization does help deliver an answer to the increase of anti-immigration parties in the Netherlands and how it is harmful to democracy. Dani Rodrik’s academic article on Populism and the Economics of Globalization supports this claim. A countries problem, and in Rodrik’s case, a countries trade/economic problem do become ammunition for politicians to capitalize on blaming identity groups, and in the Dutch’s radical right parties’ case, immigration from Muslim countries. This is evident in the growth of support for right-wing parties such as the PVV in the Netherlands and their unquestionably undemocratic actions.
With the growth of Dutch political parties like that of the PVV, polarization in the Netherlands is inevitably on the rise as well. This increase strengthens the fragility or threat that the rhetoric and political ideology have on Dutch democracy. While some Dutch voters might feel as if parties such as the Party for Freedom could benefit the health of the country. The characteristics, populist mindset, and anti-immigrant agenda might very well be a fuel that supports the likelihood of democratic backsliding in the country. In conclusion, the growth of the radical/far-right and populist parties in the Netherlands must be stopped as it places a legitimate threat to the health and stability of the state’s democracy and democratic institutions.