[Update at end]

The elections in the Netherlands yesterday are being portrayed by the BBC and other MSM sources as a defeat for the “racist” PVV party led by Geert Wilders.

Dutch people rejected “the wrong kind of populism”, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said, as he celebrated victory in Wednesday’s election.

“The Netherlands said ‘Whoa!'” he declared after his centre-right VVD party’s lead positioned him for a third successive term as prime minister.

With nearly all votes counted, his party easily beat the anti-immigration Freedom party of Geert Wilders

This is only true up to a point. The PVV did not become the largest party in the next parliament and it did not gain as many seats as hoped. However in many other ways he triumphed.

The first thing we note is that the BBC and others are good on mentioning that the PVV only got 20 seats compared to the VVD’s 33 – thus putting the PVV in second place – but they are pretty coy about mentioning the change in votes and seats since the previous 2012 elections. Fortunately Dutch sites have nice graphs and Wikipedia’s article includes the deltas:

Party Leader Votes % +/– Seats +/–
People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD Mark Rutte 21.3 –5.2 33 –8
Party for Freedom PVV Geert Wilders 13.1 +3.0 20 +5
Christian Democratic Appeal CDA Sybrand Buma 12.5 +4.0 19 +6
Democrats 66 D66 Alexander Pechtold 12.0 +4.0 19 +7
Socialist Party SP Emile Roemer 9.2 –0.4 14 –1
GroenLinks GL Jesse Klaver 8.9 +6.6 14 +10
Labour Party PvdA Lodewijk Asscher 5.7 –19.1 9 –29
Christian Union CU Gert-Jan Segers 3.4 +0.3 5
50PLUS 50+ Henk Krol 3.1 +1.2 4 +2
Party for the Animals PvdD Marianne Thieme 3.1 +1.2 5 +3
Reformed Political Party SGP Kees van der Staaij 2.1 +0.0 3
DENK DENK Tunahan Kuzu 2.0 3 +3
Forum for Democracy FvD Thierry Baudet 1.8 2 +2

The biggest loser was the PvdA (Labour) which went from around 25% of the vote down to 6% and hence went from 38 seats to 9. The next biggest loser was the VVD which lost 5% of the vote and 8 seats. The VVD and PvdA were the governing coalition before the election so this is certainly not a ringing endorsement of the Prime Minister or his government. Meanwhile the PVV gained 3% of the vote and 5 seats. It is true this isn’t as good as other parties – the Greens, D66 and the CDA all gained more – but it isn’t a defeat except when matched against some opinion polls a few weeks back that predicted gains of 15 seats or so.

Moreover as the Speccie points out, Rutte and the VVD kept their lead by doing a hard U-turn on immigration and making comments and promises regarding policy that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

Just a year ago Rutte stood firm that immigrants were welcome in his country. But as the winds seemed to favour the anti-immigration stance of far-right parties, his rhetoric changed. ‘Act normal or go away,’ he said recently. It was in response to growing concerns that immigrants arriving in the Netherlands were not yet integrating.

Combine that with Rutte’s recent pugnacious comments about Turkey and its president and you see just how much the landscape has shifted. The PVV may not have achieved total victory but I think it is fair to say they are achieving their political goals even so.

The rest of Europe and the French establishment in particular are undoubtedly breathing sighs of relief. The French are probably hoping that they can thread a similar needle but I’m not (yet) convinced seeing how Macron, who is their candidate, has been remarkably pro-immigration, Islam and so on.

Update: This post gives some interesting city by city figures for the way the PVV has gained at the expense of the PvdA(Labour) party:

The Dutch Labor Party used to dominate Maastricht. The ancient city gave its name to the Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union. In this election, the Labor Party fell from a quarter of the vote to a twentieth.

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, which advocates withdrawing from the EU, is now the largest party in the birthplace of the European Union. […]

In The Hague, where Carnegie’s Peace Palace hosts the World Court while the humbler Noordeinde Palace houses King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, the internationalist institutions colliding with the nationalist ones, the United Nations rubbing up against the Dutch parliament and Supreme Court, the Freedom Party has become the second largest party despite the 15% Muslim population.

In Rotterdam, where Muslim rioters shouted, “Allahu Akbar” and anti-Semitic slurs and where Hamas front groups are organizing a conference, the Freedom Party is now the second largest political party. In that ancient city on the Rotte that had the first Muslim mayor of a major European city, Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of the Labor Party who was being groomed for Prime Minister, estimates are that Labor fell from 32 percent to just 6 percent. That is strikingly similar to what took place in Maastricht.

But nearly half of Rotterdam is made up of immigrants. Muslims make up 13% of the population. But turnout hit 72% and after the Muslim riots, the Freedom Party only narrowly trails the ruling VVD.

The Freedom Party has become the largest party in Venlo while the Labor Party has all but vanished.

The destruction of the PvdA does mean that Rutte will have fun forming a coalition. I suspect he’ll try for one that consists of his own VVD plus D66, CDA and the CU. This gives him a bare majority of 76, it’ll be a fragile coalition  and a tricky balancing act but not as tricky as trying to include some of the socialist/communist parties. He may also try to add a party like 50plus to give him a bit more of a cushion. The good news for Rutte in such a scenario is that the opposition is going to be split. PVV on one side, the Socialists, Commies and Greens on the other. Depending on the policy being debated he may well manage to get one or other part of the opposition to support him in a vote.