As the Netherlands go to the polls this week, most talk concerns the 'Dutch Trump' who has led most polls in the past year. Paul Krishnamurty, however, confidently predicts Geert Wilders will not become PM...
"Even if his party wins the most seats, Wilders has effectively no chance of becoming PM. Instead, the other mainstream parties will cobble together some form of coalition."
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you will have heard about a political revolution sweeping the Western world. Brexit and the election of alt-Right hero Donald Trump were driven by the 'silent majority' rejecting mass immigration and a globalist agenda, imposed against their will by an out-of-touch political class. A terrified establishment - be it centrist politicians, financial markets or the mainstream media - are braced for a series of elections in 2017 that could ultimately destroy the EU.
The first of those elections arrives this week in the Netherlands, where anti-Islam, anti-EU populist Geert Wilders has usually topped opinion polls over the past 18 months. However, while Wilders' PVV are expected to gain seats, Betfair markets strongly imply that the chance of him actually taking power is a long shot. In fact, I believe odds of 5/15.8 (17%) considerably over-state his chances of becoming Next Prime Minister.
The key point is that, while there are social and ideological parallels between these various populist, anti-establishment waves, the conditions of each national election are different. There are issues unique to each country and their party systems differ. So with Brexit, UK voters were dealing with a single issue that cut across party and ideological boundaries. That non-party question inspired people who never vote in conventional elections.
In the USA, Trump's celebrity businessman appeal also inspired previous non-voters and transcended party lines. Again this was effectively a binary choice, between two unpopular candidates in a country deeply divided along party and ideological lines. A Conservative need not like or even agree with Trump to vote for him - winning the White House and Congress were more important. Had Republicans picked a more centrist candidate like John Kasich, they would probably have won a landslide.
The Netherlands could barely be more different. Here, up to 15 parties could win seats in the 150-strong parliament. To form a government, one needs 76 seats, and all the other main parties have vowed to not deal with Wilders. The highest polls have ever projected PVV to win was just 42. Their highest projection this year was 35 and in the past month, they have consistently slipped below 30. Even if his party wins the most seats, Wilders has effectively no chance of becoming PM.
Instead, the other mainstream parties will cobble together some form of coalition. That won't be a straightforward process, however, and who will lead it is far from clear. At present, Mark Rutte of the centre-right VVD heads such an arrangement with the PvdA - effectively a mainstream Conservative/Labour coalition. However, both parties are set for a dramatic fall, perhaps losing more than half their combined seats.
While Rutte's party are hanging on and rated close to PVV at 5/42.3 in the race to win Most Seats, PvdA are in freefall and forecast to finish sixth. In keeping with the wider phenomenon across Europe, the centre-left is being usurped by more radical alternatives. In this case, GroenLinks (Green Left), who are set to more than quadruple their number of seats.
According to the latest poll, four parties were predicted to earn between 20 and 24 seats - VVD (24), PVV (22), CDA (21) and GL (20). Two more, D66 (Liberal Democrats) and SP (Socialists), are on course for a good result with 15 plus and will be key players in forming coalitions and choosing the PM. With a large number of new voters (6.6% of the electorate) involved and Dutch notoriety for late swings as voters weigh up coalition implications, predicting their precise order is fraught with risk.
So too is predicting who emerges from it all as PM. Rutte is rated odds-on at 8/111.75 to remain in charge, but there has been plenty of money for his favored coalition partner, Sybrand van Haersma Buma. The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) leader has shortened in recent days to 7/24.4 (22%) for Next PM, in line with their improving numbers. Just as GL are taking votes from the left of the coalition, CDA are taking from the right, and may yet take Rutte's job.
Besides Wilders, the other contender is Jesse Klaver, the GL leader, who is often likened to Canada's Liberal PM Justin Trudeau. Klaver has been backed below 19/120.0 (5%), as punters ponder the prospect of the 30 year-old leading what would be an eclectic coalition.
Whatever the outcome of the vote and protracted negotiations, the narrative outside the Netherlands will concern Wilders, and rightly or wrongly in relation to the 'Trump effect'. This election offers a first chance to test any backlash to the result that shocked the world. To see how other countries respond to 'America First' beyond amusing parodies such as 'Netherlands Second'.
Some see the PVV's recent decline in precisely that context. Wilders couldn't have tied himself closer, visiting the Republican National Convention, and is known as the 'Dutch Trump'. Few believe the parallel plays well, or that the Trump brand will travel. The association certainly hasn't helped UKIP since Nigel Farage promoted himself as the President's best friend.
Alternatively, if PVV were to win most seats and overperform expectations, expect positive moves for Marine Le Pen in our French Presidential Election market. It would re-enforce the perception that polls are failing to pick up the true number alt-Right voters. But, while that latter scenario remains plausible, don't throw your money away on Wilders becoming PM. Sure, Trump felt like a miracle but Wilders would be an unprecedented Act of God.
Lay Geert Wilders to be Next Netherlands PM @ 5/15.8