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 5.8 (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.