These elections were always going to be seen as the first real test of Dutch public opinion on the Netherlands’ future relationship with Europe. It has been a long and strong bond, cemented by the country’s strong reliance on the European export market. But the eurozone financial crisis has brought the reciprocity of this union under intense scrutiny. Many voters are frustrated by what they see as the flow of “blank cheques” being signed off by their leaders and sent to bailout-struggling economies abroad, while austerity is making life harder at home.
The populist, right-wing Freedom Party, led by the ardently anti-European Geert Wilders, offered voters a radical alternative: abandon the union altogether. He implored the nation to stop being “slaves to Brussels” and join his mission to return to the glory days of the guilder, the old Dutch currency.
Dutch dissatisfaction with Europe dominated the pre-election debate. But ultimately, when voters stood alone in polling booths, facing the choice of where the Netherlands would have the best hope of emerging from the crisis, they placed their faith in Europe.