That Dutch election inspired hope…but not because of who won outright


Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash


“Some people say there is a God; others say there is no God; the truth probably lies somewhere in between”
– W. B. Yeats

It seems awfully long ago (April 2 actually) that Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte survived a no-confidence vote after being caught up in a scandal that threatened to end his 11 years in office. And the March 17 Dutch  election seems like ancient history. In managing the crisis-defying feat of winning,  Mr Rutte is the poster child for political hopefulness.

The Netherlands itself is triggering hope for a change in the European political season. The truly hopeful bits to emerge from the election have nothing to do with the winner, but the runners-up.

The fortunes of the country’s liberal democrat party, D66, revived.

It can only be good that the new spotlight is on D66 leader, Sigrid Kaag.

A former UN diplomat, she is pro-European. More significant by far perhaps for politics on the European mainland, Ms Kaag is married to a Palestinian.

Ms Kaag, whose children have Arab blood, has spoken out about racism in Dutch society. She has loudly and clearly made a virtue of  “cosmopolitanism”. This is brave at a time globalisation is under pressure and a broader worldview considered unpatriotic.

(“Citizens of nowhere,” in the words of former British prime minister Theresa May.) The populist far-right in The Netherlands has pilloried Ms Kaag for her liberal views.

But she has persisted and been unafraid. Some years ago, she addressed the discrimination head on, saying that “Sometimes, because of my choice of husband and career, I am treated as a foreigner in my own country”.

So the Dutch election has truly thrown up hope, not because of the winner but the woman who will stand with him in parliament.