THE HAGUE – Voters in the Netherlands, along with the United Kingdom, will be the first to head to the polls to elect their representatives in the European Parliament for the next five years.
Two big Eurosceptic parties on the far-right and another 14 of varying ideologies are running in the Netherlands, most of whom agree that Brussels needs to be reformed to tackle immigration and ensure security.
After an overwhelming victory for the far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) party in the provincial elections in March, all eyes are on its leader, Thierry Baudet, 36, who does now view the European Union favorably.
He is advocating for a “Nexit” (a Dutch version of Brexit), a referendum on the country’s EU membership, as well as dismantling the bloc and doing away with open borders and the euro, the single currency used by most member states within the EU.
During his campaign in the lead up to the elections, he argued the EU was outdated and beyond reform, and open borders were leading to uncontrolled migration and a greater risk of terror attacks.
Several analysts with whom EFE spoke warned not to underestimate Baudet’s party in the European elections, which could even eclipse the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, as it did during the provincial elections two months ago.
The Netherlands will elect 26 members to the European Parliament, a number that will go up to 29 after Brexit, should the UK leave.
“He has no interest in being a major player in Europe,” Dutch political analyst Diederik Brink told EFE of Baudet. “He wants nothing to do with the Union. He wants to show strength in the Netherlands.”
Brink said Baudet’s “reactionary politics is frightening” and “he commands the support of traditional white men and that proves to still be a dominant force here.”
Operating along similar lines to the FvD is the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) of Geert Wilders, who has argued that the Dutch government is sending billions of euros to countries in Southern Europe and keeping borders open to “keep the EU happy.”
Wilders, from whom Baudet has been taking away votes in recent weeks with his more philosophical, less aggressive discourse, wants to “liberate” the Netherlands of the European institutions so that political decisions can be taken by the Hague, “not in Brussels,” in order to be able to “stop Islam and immigration.”
These parties, expected to garner about 16 percent of the vote, are up against the parties that make up the government: the VVD, Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Democrats 66 and Christian Union (CU). The coalition lost its Senate majority in March owing to the rise of Baudet.
The liberals are pushing for less EU financial integration, budget spending and “unnecessary” rules from Brussels, as well as shared policies to help control arrivals of migrants and refugees in order to end illegal immigration.
They also want more forceful action from Europe to guarantee the security of member states.
Democrats 66 are more pro-Europe and believe the EU needs to be united in order to be able to tackle all kinds of issues, including the environment, defending borders, fighting crime and tax.
The party is also in favor of the European Parliament having a permanent role within international organizations, like the United Nations Security Council, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The Christian Democrats are not looking to drain power away from the EU, which they believe needs to supervise member states to ensure democratic transparency and cooperation.
The Labour Party (PvdA) is seeking to cut EU spending by reducing, for example, the number of institutions so that lawmakers do not have to move between Brussels and Strasbourg, as well as pushing for the approval of decision by the majority rather than unanimously.
According to the latest poll conducted by Dutch agency I&O Research, 72 percent of Dutch citizens want to remain the EU, versus 18 percent who are in favor of leaving it.
And according to the same poll, 46 percent of citizens believe the EU institutions have “too much power.”