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Far-Right Wins the Dutch Elections, Sending Shockwaves Across the Continent


Source: Flickr


The Dutch went to the polls last week to choose their next government to replace the outgoing Rutte administration. After over 13 years in power, Mark Rutte’s latest coalition government collapsed due to disagreements over the country’s asylum policy. Although Rutte’s replacement as the new leader of the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Dilan Yeşilgöz, was viewed as the front-runner to be the next Prime Minister, the election results left the political establishment in shock: Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) gained 37 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, granting him the right to form a coalition government.


Nicknamed the Dutch Trump, Geert Wilders is the longest-serving politician in the Dutch Parliament. He started his political career as part of VVD, where he was working with the outgoing Prime Minister Rutte, and then quit the party and formed his own party, PVV, in 2006. His party is known to have a different structure than other Dutch parties, with Wilders exerting full control over the party’s policies. Similar to Le Pen and her National Rally, Wilders is known to be Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic. He ran a polarizing campaign, with the motto “Dutch First”, and proposed that there would be a “Nexit” referendum to leave the European Union under his government, worrying the political elite in Brussels. His campaign promises also included banning the Quran, Islamic schools, and headscarves in government buildings, while also opting out of EU regulations on asylum and migration.


Wilders is known for the inflammatory language he uses as he was convicted of insulting a group of people based on their background after he called for “fewer Moroccans” in the Netherlands in 2014. He once described Islam as a “totalitarian ideology” and called Moroccans “scum.” During a debate, Wilders fat-shamed the leader of the Labor-Green alliance (PvdA-GL), former EU climate chief Frans Timmermans, and called the outgoing Finance Minister Kaag “a witch.” His divisive language and targeting of different groups of people in the country raised serious concerns over his security as well. Wilders is unlikely to be seen in public, and whenever he is seen, he is surrounded by his security team, due to the fact that he occasionally gets threats. Back in 2018, the Dutch police arrested a man for planning to kill Wilders after he announced that he intended to hold a Prophet Mohammad cartoon competition.


While Wilders’ victory shocked many, it is the most recent example of the rise of the far right in Europe, a trend we have been observing in France, Italy, and Germany. France’s Le Pen and Hungary’s Orban were among those who cheered on PVV's win in the Netherlands, a country once viewed as one of the most socially liberal countries in Europe. Orban said, “The winds of change are here.” According to Le Pen, the European Union is in trouble: "More and more countries within the European Union are contesting the way it works," she said, following the Dutch general elections results.


Although Wilders’ PVV gained the most seats in the House of Representatives, he still needs to find coalition partners to be able to govern. PvdA-GL, who came second with 25 seats, already ruled out the possibility of joining a coalition government led by the far right. Timmermans, who quit his job as the Vice President of the European Commission to lead the Labor-Green Alliance in the elections, said: “ I suspect that we will end up in the opposition.” On the other hand, Dilan Yeşilgöz, Rutte’s successor as the leader of VVD, said the longtime ruling party would “make possible and constructively support a center-right Cabinet with good policies,” but wouldn’t join a government. It is now up to Pieter Omtzigt, who built a centrist party (NSC) from scratch in three months to take an estimated 20 seats in the election, to decide whether Wilders will have enough seats to form a coalition government or not. Omtzigt had previously ruled out joining forces with Wilders, but he said on the election night that he would be open to talks, and declined to close doors to any potential partners.


The shocking victory of Wilders in the Netherlands is the most recent example of the far-right surge in Europe. Although Spanish voters were able to keep the far-right Vox Party out of government by granting Socialist Pedro Sanchez another term in office, the political establishment in Brussels fears what happened last year in Italy and last week in the Netherlands could happen in Germany and France. AfD is still rising in polls and Le Pen’s National Rally is likely to come first in the upcoming European elections. Although it is still unclear whether Wilders will be able to be the next Dutch Prime Minister or not, PVV’s victory in the general elections is scary enough for those dreaming of a more united Europe.



Resources:

Schaart, Eline. “The Dutch Trump: Who Is Geert Wilders and What Does He Want?” POLITICO, POLITICO, 24 Nov. 2023,

www.politico.eu/article/who-is-dutch-geert-wilders-election/

Moses, Claire. “Long a Bastion of Liberalism, the Netherlands Takes a Sharp Right Turn.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Nov. 2023,

www.nytimes.com/2023/11/23/world/europe/dutch-election-results-far-right-geert-wilders.html

Corder, Mike. “The Netherlands’ Longtime Ruling Party Says It Won’t Join a New Government Following Far-Right’s Win.” AP News, AP News, 24 Nov. 2023,

apnews.com/article/netherlands-election-wilders-coalition-c3caa2c87d7ce4d2e0cd7a1840f1f7c3

Ross, Tim, et al. “Geert Wilders Is the EU’s Worst Nightmare.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 23 Nov. 2023, www.politico.eu/article/geert-wilders-is-the-eus-worst-nightmare/

“Offensive, Hostile and Unrepentant: Geert Wilders in His Own Words.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 Nov. 2023,

www.theguardian.com/world/2023/nov/24/offensive-hostile-and-unrepentant-geert-wilders-in-his-own-words?ref=upstract.com


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