Dr Itay Lotem, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Westminster, offered his academic expertise to several media outlets, commenting on the Dutch election results on 16 March.

Following the Dutch election results being revealed on 16 March, Dr Itay Lotem was invited to provide commentary for The Times Scotland, BBC News, the Huffington Post and the Huffington Post Blog.

Dr Lotem’s expert comment was first featured in The Times Scotland newspaper’s online and print article, announcing the centre-right Mark Rutte’s elections victory. Despite the far-right wing party’s defeat, Dr Lotem said that far-right leader Wilders was still “successful in pushing Dutch politics into culture wars over Islam and immigration.” He added: “Unlike other populists in Europe, he is more interested in shifting the discourse to the right than to actually implement his non-existent policies. And here, he is extremely successful.” This idea was also exposed in an article published by the Huffington Post where Dr Lotem's commentary was featured, saying: "Wilders can still portray himself as a true opposition from the right, while he watches as the Dutch public conversation increasingly accomodates his ideas."

Dr Lotem was also invited for a live interview on BBC News to discuss the elections’ outcome. He outlined the three main issues which the results indicated. Firstly, the parliament appears as a very fragmented parliament unlike the previous government which had a stable coalition. Additionally, there seems to be a significant emergence of more centre-right parties, and finally, the crumbling of the Dutch Labour Party, which barely received 6 per cent of votes, could also be seen as a noticeable issue from the results. In concluding the interview, Dr Lotem also stated that this very specific Dutch political system could not replicate itself in other European countries such as France. However, some common issues, such as the challenging establishment of the left wing party, could probably also happen in France and in Germany.

Finally, in his article published by the Huffington Post Blog, Dr Lotem explained the reasons why the media attention was focused on Wilders’s party during the campaign, and why Wilders’s defeat was unexpected. “During the campaign, it seemed as if two parallel election cycles were taking place. The one was a two-horse “presidential” race in the international media between the incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Geert Wilders. The other, which had the advantage of actually happening, involved a myriad of parties fighting one another in a country with one of the lowest thresholds in the world. This became the real story, as the Dutch voters delivered a fragmented parliament with many smaller parties that will need to form a complex coalition.

He added: “It is understandable why so many international observers did not go beyond Geert Wilders’s bleached haircut. To audiences unaware of the Dutch local issues, these elections were only interesting within a set narrative: a continuation of an overarching populist wave that began with Brexit, continued with Trump and then goes on to devastate mainland Europe.”

Read the full article on the Huffington Post website. 

Read the full article on the Huffington Post Blog website.

Read a copy of the Times Scotland article on the Times online website (access only for subscribers).

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