Yet the Netherlandsʹ so-called "Turkish party" does not merely appeal to "Nederturks" (and, indeed, is rejected by Dutch-Kurds and anti-Erdogan Dutch-Turkish). It has also attracted support from a large share of the Dutch-Moroccan community and many native Dutch disaffected with mainstream politics. But it also underlines the radical transformation that the Netherlands – once considered a global example of diversity and cultural cohabitation – has undergone.

In major Dutch cities, popularity of minority parties growing

Now in its fifth year, Denk is one of the most successful examples of a "migranten partij", with a permanent national structure and elected representatives in several provinces and every city with a substantial minority population. But it is not the only one in the Netherlands to represent Dutch citizens with a migrant background. Big cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag all have local minority parties, mostly representing the fragmented and complex Muslim communities.

In Rotterdam, a former Green-left (Groenlinks) councilman with Egyptian roots, Nourdin El Ouali, founded "Nida", which in Arabic means "vote" and "unity". The party, a Muslim-inspired movement with a progressive stance on social issues and LGBTIQ-friendly positions, has been represented in the local council since 2014. This unusual combination has seen Nida gain much support among younger generations with a migrant background; Nida has also seen a representative elected to the Den Haag City Council.

In the "city of peace and justice", as the de facto capital has labelled itself because of the international tribunals it hosts, political fragmentation is so far advanced that three parties with an agenda for Muslim voters are competing: Nida, the Party of Unity (Partij van de Eenheid) and the Muslim Democrats (Islam Democraten). The three each hold a seat in the council and often represent the interests of different mosques and Islamic cultural centres.

In Amsterdam, where Denk attracts virtually all Muslim votes, yet another "migrants party" has appeared on the scene, this one representing the black community. Bij1, an explicitly feminist party, gained one seat at the last municipal elections. It was founded by Sylvana Simons, a Dutch-Surinamese TV actor, with a programme focused on de-colonisation and the rights of the black community, especially women.

For many, the rise of the "migrantenpartijen" is a worrying signal. As non-western minorities represent 13% of the population in The Netherlands, the main risk is that a relevant part of the country will become more marginalised from mainstream society. Nevertheless, by relying on activism and identity, the migrant parties have managed to mobilise people who have never been involved in politics before. They have directly challenged the concept of "integration" – calling it out as a neo-colonial tool of the native-born to force assimilation – and replaced it with the idea of "acceptance".

Denk is the trailblazer. If its position in recent opinion polls holds up, it seems likely to fulfil its ambition of becoming the first migrant party ever to gain a seat in the European parliament.

Massimiliano Sfregola

© ResetDOC 2019

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