by Xinhua writer Tian Dongdong
BEIJING, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Riding on rising populism, the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) led by populist Geert Wilders joins the hunt for the throne as the largest party in the Netherlands on Wednesday, in a high-stake election that might shape the future of European integration and globalization at large.
As the start of a series of campaigns this year in European Union (EU) member states, including France, Germany and possibly Italy, the Dutch election could be a barometer of populism's impact across the continent.
Many analysts believe that, should the PVV become the largest party in the lower house, the Netherlands would be the next domino tile toppling in the European and even global trend of populism, following Brexit and Donald Trump's election as the U.S. president.
Historically speaking, populism is hardly a stranger to human society. If there is any catalyst behind its recent surge across the West, it should be the cocktail made of the drawbacks of globalization and the poor performance of the Establishment in dealing with financial and immigrant crises.
However, the rationality of the upward momentum of populism does not automatically justify its validity as a panacea -- as Wilders and his populist fellows in France and Germany have claimed -- to problems faced by the Netherlands and the whole Europe.
For one thing, though populism encourages political participation, it brings divisions too.
Even before the election, Dutch society has already been divided by populism. Should the PVV take the lion's share in the lower house, a political stalemate would ensue that could last for years.
Tradition in the Netherlands holds that the party that gets the most votes oversees coalition talks. But even if Wilders secures a victory, he is more likely to end up back in opposition since all Dutch mainstream parties, including the current largest party, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, have vowed to ostracize him.
A divided and politically stagnated Netherlands brings no good to Europe, as it would harm the EU's unity and extend the populist backlash against European integration after Brexit.
In this sense, taking populism as a solution to regional and global problems is tantamount to drinking poisonous wine to quench a raging thirst.
For another, if history offers any guidance, global crises can only be solved in a multilateral way. Crises of the world today, including immigration, terrorism and economic development issues, cannot be tackled by one state alone. It needs cooperation.
Resulting from instability and inefficiency of the multilateral structure, populism serves as a symptom of, instead of a solution to, the defects of regional integration and globalization. Against the backdrop of the rise of populism, multilateral institutions like the UN and the EU must not be impaired, but rather be strengthened.
Despite the shortcomings of globalization, the international community should not throw away the apple because of its core. Instead, countries around the world should jointly solve the problems of poverty, unemployment and the widening income gap through cooperation, because in multilateralism lies human's future.
Populism looks attractive, but it bites.