Anti-EU populists have triumphed in regional elections in the Netherlands, robbing the governing party of its senate majority in a vote held two days after a suspected terror attack in Utrecht.
The Forum for Democracy supports “Nexit”, the Netherlands leaving the EU, and is virulently against immigration and anti-Islam.
It is led by Thierry Baudet, 35, who has aped Donald Trump with “Dutch First” policies , blasted the “cartel” of establishment parties in the Netherlands and railed against the euro.
The Netherlands’ newest party has surged from no seats in the senate to 12 in its first regional elections, which determine the senate’s composition, and where it pocketed the largest number of votes.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’ conservative VVD party lost one seat in the senate, which reviews legislation passed in the more powerful parliament, and now also has 12 seats. The Forum has two parliament seats.
“The voters in the Netherlands have spread their wings and shown their true power," Mr Baudet said last night, "We have been called to the front because we have to. Because the country needs us. "
“We are standing in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilization in the world," he added.
In February, Mr Baudet, whose success has eclipsed Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders, told the De Volkskrant paper, “I am ideologically against the EU, against the internal market, against the open borders, against the euro, against the whole thing.
“ That is in our election program and has been our line for years, ” he said.
The result means that Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s governing centre-right coalition will need to seek outside support to pass legislation. He is likely to form alliances with Green Left and Labour parties for outside support once the new senate is seated in May.
Analysts have pointed to the murder of three people in a shooting on a tram in Utrecht as a major reason for the Forum’s success. It was announced on Thursday that the attack would be treated as a terror attack by prosecutors.
Mr Baudet blamed the government’s immigration policy the attack, while other parties suspended campaigning.
Pollsters had for weeks predicted Mr Rutte’s centre-right coalition would lose its Senate majority. But experts, including pollster Maurice de Hond, said the Utrecht attack appeared to boost turnout most among opponents of immigration.
The Dutch economy has been one of Europe’s best performers under successive Rutte-led governments, but resentment over early 2010s austerity programs lingers.
Recent debate has focused on funding the government’s plans to meet international goals on climate change.