News & Politics

Dutch Populist Geert Wilders Congratulates Marine Le Pen for 'a Beautiful' Result

Far-right leader Marine le Pen from France, right, and Dutch populist anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders stand together after their speeches during a meeting of European Nationalists in Koblenz, Germany, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The most notorious and famous anti-EU and anti-immigration politician in Europe, Dutchman Geert Wilders, has congratulated his French ideological ally, Marine Le Pen, over the results of yesterday’s election. The Front National leader finished in second place in the first round, thereby enabling her to proceed to the second round where she’ll have to take on independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, who is the odds-on favorite to win.

“Congratulations sent to Marine Le Pen,” the Dutch critic of Islam tweeted. “A day of celebration for all Patriots in Europe. On to the 2nd round and the Presidency!”

That last statement is a bit overly optimistic — recent polls show Macron leading Le Pen by some 20 percentage points in a head-to-head race — but Wilders is certainly right to celebrate Le Pen’s accomplishment. If we compare her amount of votes (almost 8 million) to the results of five years ago, we see that her vote share has increased by 20 percent. That’s a very significant rise and it implies that her Front National has finally, and truly, gone mainstream.

Although most experts believe she’ll lose in the second round to Macron — albeit with a caveat: in politics, anything can happen, including some kind of scandal — yesterday’s results do mark an important day in French electoral politics. First and foremost is the fact that French voters delivered the establishment a crushing blow. The Front National is as un-establishment as they come, and Macron didn’t even have a party until last year. He founded one for the sole purpose of participating in these elections, knowing that the Socialist Party had no shot at winning thanks to the country’s current, and incredibly unpopular, Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Secondly, even if polls of a two-horse race between Macron and Le Pen are to be believed — that Macron will end up with 60 percent of the votes and Le Pen with 40 percent — that would still cause a political earthquake. The one and only time the Front National proceeded to the second round was in 2002, when Marine’s father, Jean Marie Le Pen, was destroyed by Jacques Chirac, who got 82 percent of the votes. Even Le Pen’s most ardent opponents know that it’ll be a much closer race this time around, with the Front National quite possibly breaking through the psychologically important 40 percent threshold.

It should come as no surprise then that Le Pen’s allies are already preparing for the next presidential election, set to be held in 2022. This year’s election is little more than a final rehearsal with the goal being to prove to French voters that the Front National is a force to be reckoned with… and to get at least 40 percent of them to vote for the party. Once they vote for Le Pen once, the thinking is, they’ll do so again next time, especially if Macron fails to deliver on his promises.