The Netherlands election

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WEDNESDAY’S election in the Netherlands, for those concerned about the direction the world has taken since last June when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU), would be seen as going against the tide of an emerging political order.

Incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte won, dealing a decisive blow to the far-right Party for Freedom whose candidate was Geert Wilders. Wilders’ one-page manifesto focused on immigration and Muslims which read:- Stop Muslim immigration, leave the EU, ban the Quran, and close mosques. In the multi-party system where a coalition is needed to form the new government, Rutte has ruled out the Freedom Party.

The new brand of populism sweeping Europe and the United States (U.S.) would no doubt be of concern to those interested in creating a world that is inclusive and respecting of all.

No law-abiding person would object to any country wanting to protect its borders and enforce its laws, for the sovereignty of a nation is threatened in the absence of such. The objection is taken when the claim is made that the protection of sovereignty requires banning or calling for the expulsion of groups based on identity. None can fault a country for the manner in which it manages its resources when it does not seek to treat others in a lesser manner. But where populism is careening on isolation and exclusion, it allows for persons to be targeted not because they violate the law, but based on who they are. This is a dangerous place for the world to be in the 21st century.

Unlike the last century, modern technology and military advancement can wreak havoc without having to leave one’s domain. There are new forms of warfare, fuelled through cyber-security threats, recruitment of terrorists from anywhere around the world, and the ability of non-state actors to fund same through money-laundering and other acts. Whereas in the past the state propelled warfare in controlled environments, today non-state actors, not bound by any rule or public outcry, can inflict deadly consequences on others.

At the state level, though there are internal checks and balances for some countries going to war, where war is instigated based on false information, missiles and nuclear tests are carried out without regard for established conventions, where power is vested in the hands of nihilistic leaders, and there is little respect for the judiciary and state institutions, uneasiness lies.

The conflicts that led to World War I and II were largely due to isolationist thinking and behaviour, that informed notions of superiority, where justification was felt in exterminating the identified inferior. Isolationism, by its very nature, breeds intolerance. Intolerance closes the door to listen to and understand the world from the perspective of others. There are too many hot-spots and trouble zones around the world that risk the potential of creating new wars. Though Europe and the U.S. have within their history systems of oppression, which they also inflicted around the world, none can deny efforts by both, through establishment of international institutions, to check themselves.

These institutions, while they acknowledge the economic and military might of the more developed countries, have too embedded shared responsibility of these nations in working with others in creating the environment to foster mutual respect and dignity for the common good of all. These aspirations and values remain relevant now more than ever. With the Netherlands election decided and the two that are upcoming, in France and Germany, with candidates of Wilders’ ilk, time will tell if the Dutch have started the process of restoring a tolerant world order.