It’s almost 10 p.m. on a Monday night but the 100 or so people assembled in a hotel conference room in North Holland are in no hurry to go home. They’re asking a dapper, young politician pointed and thoughtful questions that reveal a hunger for political debate. It would be an idyllic picture of one of the world’s most accomplished democracies if the content of the discussion weren’t evidence of a democratic process gone badly wrong. The March 15 election in the Netherlands is expected to deliver a further strong signal to global political elites that many Western voters no longer accept the way in which they are governed. And that signal won’t be limited to the expected strong showing for Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party (PVV).
“Shouldn’t what you say about how mosques are alien to our secular state also apply to churches?” one woman in the Hilversum audience asks. Thierry Baudet, 34, leader of a party called Forum for Democracy, is ready with a reply. “The music of church bells is part of our everyday life, our culture,” he says. “Cries from a minaret are not. Perhaps the mosques should put up some bells.” The audience breaks into applause.
The Forum for Democracy (FvD) has a curious history. Baudet, a well-regarded legal scholar and political philosopher, set it up in 2015 as a conservative, euroskeptic think tank, not a political party. Almost the first thing it did was to take part in organizing a referendum on whether the Netherlands should ratify the European Union’s 2014 association agreement with Ukraine. That non-binding vote was a stunning success for the Netherlands’ nationalist right, despite a relatively low turnout: In April, 2016, 61 percent of those who voted, about 2.5 million people, rejected the trade deal.
Full Article: The Dutch Election Is About More Than Nationalism – Bloomberg View.