The far-right won big in the Dutch election

Jagos, Peter.

The Netherlands saw a massive change in its political landscape on Wednesday night. Far-right politician Geert Wilders produced an unforeseen victory, securing his party's best results since its creation and outperforming all pre-election polls. The results mean that Geert Wilders, who has been advocating for banning the Quran, closing Islamic schools, and stopping immigration will have the chance to form a government and become prime minister of The Netherlands, after spending 25 years in opposition. His party, the Party of Freedom (PVV) triumphed in the general elections, winning 37 out of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, making it the largest party in parliament, by a considerable margin.

 

The second-most voted party was the centre-left labour-green coalition (PvdA-GL), led by the long-time EU veteran Frans Timmermans, with a respectable 25 seats. The outgoing prime minister, Mark Rutte’s party (VVD) only obtained 24 seats, placing them in third place, their worst result since 2006. The newly-formed Christian-democrat NSC came fourth with 20 seats, a disappointing result considering they were leading in the polls a few months before the election.

 

With a poll suggesting that 63% of voters have not decided which party they will cast their ballots for just a day before election day, it comes as no surprise that this was the most volatile election in the country’s history, with more changes in seats than ever before. What's certain is that the electorate has undoubtedly shifted to the right and the left has lost a lot of ground since the last election. Fellow populist extremists, such as the far-right Marine le Pen of France and the Eurosceptic illiberal Viktor Orbán of Hungary have quickly expressed their warm greetings to Wilders. These reactions should serve as a warning sign for liberalism and Dutch democracy.

 

What now?

 

To fulfil his pledge to be “prime minister for everyone”, Geert Wilders needs to form a coalition with other parties to secure at least 76 out of the total 150 seats in the second chamber of the Dutch parliament. Although Wilders declared “We want to govern… and we will govern” in his winning speech, the path doesn't seem so smooth for him, despite leading the biggest party.

 

The left-wing labour-green coalition of Frans Timmermans immediately expressed that they are not willing to govern with the PVV under any circumstances, so the only viable way of forming a government appears to be a coalition made up of other right-leaning parties, the first far-right-led majority government in the country’s history. Wilders would need to persuade his ex-party, the centre-right VVD and the newly formed NSC to join a potential coalition. Outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte upright denied any collaboration with Wilders during his last election campaign, but his successor, Dilan Yeşilgöz has left the door open for such a coalition, expressing her willingness to support such a cabinet, albeit without providing ministers. The NSC has voiced concerns over a potential PVV-led cabinet but hasn't explicitly denied the possibility of joining or supporting one. The 3 parties would have 81 seats in parliament, a 5-seat majority but the feasibility of this route is questionable. Although it is not needed for a majority, the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) has also expressed its willingness to govern, provided that Wilders tones down some of his more extreme takes.

 

The previous election was followed by a record-breaking 271 days until the government was finally formed, and the situation does not seem to be any easier this time. A long period of negotiations is likely to follow, which can even result in Wilders staying in opposition if an anti-Wilders coalition is formed, although this is one of the more unlikely scenarios. Until a government is formed, Mark Rutte will remain as interim prime minister for an indefinite period.

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