Courtesy: Geo News/ Reuters
- Wilders PVV won 37 seats out of 150 Dutch parliament seats.
- Wilders’ win sends a warning shot to mainstream parties across Europe.
- Islamic and Moroccan organisations express concerns on victory.
AMSTERDAM: In a shock election, anti-Islam, anti-EU far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders is in search of coalition partners after securing a shock election victory on Thursday that would rock the Netherlands and Europe, reported Reuters.
A fan of Hungary’s eurosceptic Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Wilders has vowed to halt all immigration, slash Dutch payments to the European Union and block the entrance of any new members, including Ukraine.
Beating all expectations and forecasts, Wilders Freedom Party (PVV) won 37 seats out of 150, well ahead of 25 for a joint Labour/Green ticket and 24 for the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
“The Rutte era ends with a right-wing populist revolt that shakes (The Hague) to its foundations,” Dutch centre-right daily NRC said.
A coalition of the Freedom Party, VVD, and the NSC party of centrist lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt would have 81 seats combined, making it the most obvious combination but one that is still likely to take months of difficult talks.
None of the parties Wilders could form a government with shared his anti-EU ideas.
“I am confident we can reach an agreement,” he said in his victory speech late on Wednesday. “We want to govern and … we will govern.”
Wilders’ win sends a warning shot to mainstream parties across Europe ahead of the European Parliament elections next June, which will likely be fought on the same issues as the Dutch election: immigration, cost of living and climate change.
“The Netherlands are not France,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire quickly reacted, while acknowledging that the Dutch election showed “the fears that are emerging in Europe” over immigration and the economy and the need for governments to show to citizens that their policies are bearing fruit.
For sure, Poland’s election last month, won by a grouping of pro-European parties against the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS), shows not all countries in the region are veering to the right.
But Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the hard-right League Matteo Salvini said the Dutch ballot showed “a new Europe is possible.”
Last year, Italy formed its most right-wing government since World War Two after the election victory of Giorgia Meloni.
Wilders’ victory comes two months after the return to power of the equally anti-EU populist Robert Fico in Slovakia, who has pledged to halt military aid to Ukraine and cut immigration.
“The winds of change are here!,” Orban said.
Wilders has repeatedly said the Netherlands should stop providing arms to Ukraine, as he says the country needs the weapons to be able to defend itself.
“We will have to find ways to live up to the hopes of our voters, to put the Dutch back as No. 1”, Wilders said.
After his victory, he said, “the Netherlands will be returned to the Dutch, the asylum tsunami and migration will be curbed.”
Islamic and Moroccan organisations expressed concerns about Wilders’ victory. Muslims make up about 5% of the population.
“The distress and fear are enormous,” Habib el Kaddouri, who heads an organisation representing Dutch Moroccans, told Dutch news agency ANP. “We are afraid that he will portray us as second-class citizens.”
All eyes will now turn to Wilders’ potential government partners who had expressed serious doubts about working with him during the campaign but were now less outspoken after his win.
Wilders and his party have never been in government.
“We are available to govern,” NSC party’s Omtzigt said. “This is a difficult outcome. We will discuss on Thursday in what way we could best contribute.”
VVD leader Dilan Yesilgoz, who earlier this week said her party wouldn’t join a government led by Wilders, said it was now up to the winner to show he could get a majority.
“We are not in a position to take the lead,” she said.
Parties are set to meet each on their side on Thursday to discuss what to do next. On Friday, party leaders will meet to decide on an ‘explorer’, a political outsider who will hear from each party what possibilities they see and prefer in coalition talks.