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The migrants who vote for an anti-immigrant party

“Gay-rights have made Dutch society dumber.” These were the infamous words of ex-candidate municipally councilor Yernaz Ramautarsing that eventually made him resign his position on the candidate list of Forum for Democracy (FvD) Amsterdam. Yernaz made this statement in a private Whatsapp group and claimed that leftist politicians and media unjustly portrayed him as a racist, xenophobe and extreme-right fanatic. How is it possible that a student with a non-Western background can be framed as a xenophobe and extreme-right fanatic?

From Think Tank to Political Party

FvD was founded in 2015 by Thierry Baudet and Henk Otten as a conservative Think Tank. In 2016 the two reformed the Think Tank into a political party. In 2017, FvD won two seats in Dutch parliament and two seats in the municipality council of Amsterdam in 2018. Since its founding, FvD was being labelled as an extreme-right party with fascist tendencies by political opponents. This was due to statements made by Baudet regarding immigration, women and the corrupt establishment. According to Baudet, the allegation that FvD is an extreme-right party with fascist tendencies is false, and another attempt of the establishment to tarnish the image of a successful new political party.  However, what we cannot ignore is that, together with the Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders, FvD can be seen as another party on the right-wing side of the political spectrum that is highly critical of immigration.


The Surinamese anti-immigrant vote

Yernaz Ramautarsing is a Dutch Surinamese student with a strong conservative opinion and excellent debating skills. He was placed on second position of the candidates-list during the municipally elections of 2018 and was seen as the rising star of FvD, together with Annabel Nanninga. However, his strong conservative opinion turned against him and eventually led to his resignation as candidate for the municipality council. Since this incident, he kept a low profile, but recently re-joined FvD as an active member of the party. Yernaz, an alumnus of The Hague University of Applied Sciences, is currently studying Political Sciences at the Cevro Institute in Prague. He was born in Paramaribo, Suriname and is of Afro-Indian decent. He is very critical towards migration, Islam, and a multicultural society. Yernaz also popularized the idea of leftist indoctrination in higher education in the Netherlands. One might think that he is an exception, but that is not quite true. There are several reports that indicate that anti-immigration and anti-Islam sentiments are very popular among Surinamese in the Netherlands. The Dutch National Election Survey in 2012 showed that in relation to all other right-wing parties, like the Christian Democrats (CDA) and People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the designated anti-immigration and anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) had the highest percentage of votes from non-Western migrants. According to a poll conducted by the Opiniehuis in 2017, PVV was also the second most popular party among Surinamese voters. So why are anti-immigrant policies popular among Surinamese migrants?


The good and the bad immigrant

It might seem odd that migrants vote for an anti-immigrant party, but to think or even suggest this means to overlook the internal diversity of the different ethnic groups in the Netherlands. The notion that it is in the interest of all migrants to vote for leftist parties, promoting inclusion and multiculturalism, sprung out of an idea of ethnic solidarity; the idea that all migrants need to stick together and fight racism, discrimination and oppression in society. However, according to the results of research, in the eyes of the Surinamese PVV-voters this is different. They do not feel oppressed by Dutch society, they do not attribute their failures to racism and discrimination in society, but instead pride themselves as hard workers, being well integrated and established in Dutch society. Moreover, Surinamese PVV-voters claim that the nuisance and problems that they are facing are due to other migrants: the Moroccans, the Turkish, and the Polish. And for some, the Muslims. Social scientist Eviane Leidig conducted research among Indian supporters of Brexit and Trump and argues that – just like the Surinamese PVV-voters – these migrants make a distinction between ‘the good immigrant’ and ‘the bad immigrant’. They view themselves as ‘the good migrants’, as well-integrated, hardworking, and contributing to society, whereas other migrants are ‘the bad immigrants’, because in the eyes of right-wing migrant voters they are not well-integrated and do not contribute to society in any positive way. In the case of Surinamese PVV-voters such feelings are often directed against migrants from other parts of the world, such as Moroccans and Turkish people, as well as Muslims.


A matter of perception?

The typical leftist response is to question the sanity of these voters and argue that they have a flawed perception because they are voting against their own interest. ‘Yesterday it was the Jews, today the Muslims, and tomorrow it might be you” is a typical response of leftist activists to non-Western migrants who vote for anti-immigrant parties. Another dominant response of the left is that the non-Western migrants who vote for anti-immigrant parties are being egoistic and self-centered. They themselves or their parents are / were migrants, and it is unjust to deny other migrants the same privilege they themselves or their parents enjoyed. As for the case of the Surinamese PVV-voters: many of them see themselves as free-thinkers, free of the paternalistic influence of leftist politics and policies, as they perceive it. Migrant PVV-voters see leftist policies as harmful, not only for themselves and their own ethnic group, but also for society. As a prominent non-Western FvD-member says: “The leftist have the need for self-chastisement and they are destroying everything that their ancestors have built […]. They are naïve, just like those Norwegian girls that were on vacation in Morocco and were beheaded eventually.” For those non-Western migrants who vote for anti-immigrant parties, this is exemplary for the state of our society. In their eyes, leftist policies and ideology is making Dutch society dumber. It is here where the challenge lies for proponents of an inclusive society and education. What do we do with students with different and sometimes contrasting (political) opinions? The answer to that question may shed light on what kind of Global Citizens we aspire to be.


By: Shashi Roopram

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