LAST week was not a great one for nativist populism. Coming off the high of Brexit and Trump, fellow travellers across the globe have been angling for their own successes, but these are proving elusive. In two distinct disappointments, Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom, or PVV, polled poorly in the Dutch general election, and the high-profile intervention of Pauline Hanson and One Nation in Western Australian politics proved something of an own goal. Taken together, these failures help illustrate the limitations of populism as an electoral platform.
In the Netherlands, the PVV enjoyed a clear lead in opinion polls through most of 2016. Wilders was sufficiently confident that he dubbed Wednesday’s vote the start of a “patriotic spring” that would sweep across Europe, returning a host of outsiders opposed to immigration, Islam and European integration. Come election day, the party attracted just 13 per cent of the vote, well down on both polling and recent results in local and regional elections, and won twenty of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.