Turnout is high in the Netherlands. According to the latest report from the New York Times, the early exit polls are showing Prime Minister Mark Rutte with a lead over ultra nationalist and anti-Muslim Geert Wilders and his PVV (Dutch Party of Freedom).
The latest exit poll results indicate that Rutte should hold on, and that Wilders is performing poorer than projected. But we know that stranger things have happened with elections (Brexit, Trump, anyone?).
As of 7:15 p.m., 69 percent of eligible voters had voted. The outcome of this election is significant, and could move the normally liberal Dutch into further confrontations with the increasingly hardline and authoritarian Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Wilders’ anti-Muslim rhetoric (calling Moroccans “scum” is one example) have even brought him to trial and conviction for leading a chant for “fewer” Moroccans in the Netherlands, according to the Christian Science Monitor. After a long night of vote tallying (the votes are being hand-counted for fears of election-rigging and hacking), Wilders could find himself running the government.
The panic is real in Europe.
While we Americans haven’t been paying attention, Europe has reached the brink of disintegration. The same problem—radical Islam—we’ve dealt with mostly through rhetoric from our secure continent between two giant oceans, has profoundly affected our European allies.
Turkey and the Netherlands are about to face major changes internally and also potentially a falling-out with significant consequences to NATO. The two countries have traded insults and diplomatic swipes recently, and in a month, Turks will vote on a referendum to make its largely titular presidency immensely powerful, giving nearly dictatorial control to Erdoğan.
To shore up support for the referendum, Erdoğan has supported rallies in European countries where expatriate Turks (who can vote) reside, while cracking down on counter-rallies on Turkish soil. Germany and Austria have already banned these rallies—and now the Netherlands has taken the same measure, citing security concerns, the New York Post reported Tuesday.
When a Turkish minister was detained at the Dutch-German border and prevented from addressing a rally in Rotterdam, the crisis between these countries escalated. “When those incidents began, I said those are fascistic measures,” the New York Times reported Erdoğan’s remarks made Sunday afternoon. ““I said Nazism had risen from the dead. And then I added: I thought Nazism was over, but I was wrong.”
Now Turkey is threatening to cancel a pact with the European Union to help restrict the flow of Syrian migrants into Greece and Germany. Not since the days before World War II have there been such sharp divisions between European powers.
With Wilders and the PVV in power, the Netherlands, home to NATO headquarters, may even pursue a Brexit-like strategy. Turkey is also a NATO member. It’s difficult to imagine a more strained relationship than these two nations, which are bound by NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense pact.
Now that U.S. Marines are in Syria combatting ISIS, an unraveling of NATO and European solidarity against terror would be a terrible, destabilizing trend that would challenge untested President Trump’s reactions and resolve.
It’s more than enough reason to generate panic.