Far-right on the rise
November 22, 2023, marked a radical shift for the political course of the Netherlands, as the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders won 37 seats out of 150 in the Dutch general election - more than double the number it secured in 2021. The Labor-Green alliance, chaired by a former European Commissioner for Climate Action, Frans Timmermans, came in second with 25 seats, followed by Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracs (VVD) and the centre-right party New Social Contract (NSC).
Wilders, a name arguably famous before this moment, has a solid history in Dutch politics, being the longest-serving MP in the country’s parliament. The 60-year-old ‘Dutch Trump’ entered the political arena back in 1998 as a member of the VVD but stepped off 6 years later in 2004 due to the party’s lenience towards Islam. Having founded PVV in 2006, Wilders had remained predominantly in the parliamentary shadow because of the unwillingness of other mainstream parties to cooperate. Now, to the astonishment of regular citizens as well as a handful of experts, Wilders is the closest to the star time he’s ever been over the entirety of his career.
“Today, tomorrow or the day after, the PVV will help govern the Netherlands and I will become prime minister of this beautiful country,” Wilders stated on X.
Policies at stake
The inflammatory policies of Wilders, who has been previously convicted of insulting individuals of Moroccan descent at a 2014 rally, and then referred to a fraction of Dutch Moroccans as ‘scum’ during the 2017 election campaign, are fully aligned with his radical profile.
Citing the ‘asylum tsunami’ in his victory speech, Wilders vowed to uphold an anti-immigration agenda, viewing it as a primary solution to the housing crisis and the state of healthcare in the Netherlands. “Too many asylum seekers, too little housing, insufficient purchasing power and impoverished healthcare.” - the leader summed up on X.
His manifesto also propagates a ban on Islamic schools, mosques and the Quran, as well as entering government buildings wearing a hijab. Further, the firebrand politician is also determined to dismiss the overseas aid budget, exit the Paris climate accord, limit the amount of incoming international students, and pledged to hold a ‘Nexit’ referendum to leave the EU, though acknowledging the public’s reluctance to support this swing.
Coalition negotiations under strain
With a shocking number of 37 seats, PVV still needs to form a 76-seat majority, for which it would thus be required to form a coalition. In an attempt to appeal to potential allies, Wilders somewhat mitigated his anti-Islamic rhetoric, recognizing that the country faced far more pressing priorities at the moment and being open to putting religion-related matters ‘in the fridge’.
A prospective government could potentially be comprised of the NSC party that secured 20 seats, the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) with 7 seats, and VVD with a second-running number of 24 seats, totalling a generous majority of 88 seats. However, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, Rutte’s successor in the leadership of VVS, told NOS that “we will not enter a cabinet, tolerance is the highest achievable”. On the other hand, the NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt warned that Wilders would have to compromise on his intention to leave the EU and abide by the Dutch constitution prohibiting religious discrimination before even considering the coalition talks. With only BBB having expressed a clear intention to be a part of PVV, Wilders will most likely be nudged into scraping the roughest edges of his manifesto to win sufficient support.
The predictions are currently far from looming, and the Dutch coalition negotiations can stretch well into months. Neither is securing most seats an unmistakable indicator of successful government formation: during the 1982 general elections in the Netherlands, despite winning the plurality of seats, the Dutch Labor Party (PvdA) did not assume leadership in the subsequent coalition government, and the centre-right parties formed the governing coalition instead.
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