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Europe’s Critical Elections

BRUSSELS – Upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany will be held in what is arguably the most febrile political environment since the European Union’s creation. The post-war liberal democratic order is under threat everywhere, but particularly in Europe, where the EU is confronting challenges that include an increasingly aggressive Russia, the constant threat of terrorism, democratic disenfranchisement, and uneven economic growth.

Following the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election as US president, the question facing Europe is straightforward: Will populist and nationalist forces exert the same influence in core countries of the EU?

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders and his far-right Freedom Party are polling strongly ahead of next month’s election. Wilders approves of Trump’s executive order barring entry to the US for anyone from seven Muslim-majority countries. Like Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, Wilders views the world through a racist prism, and he believes that he is engaged in a battle to save Western civilization from Islam.

No other Dutch parliamentary party holds such views, so a Wilders-led government is still far from certain. With Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte holding his ground, Wilders will most likely be denied power in the end.