Far-right politician Geert Wilders wins Dutch general elections
Geert Wilders, the controversial Dutch right-wing politician and leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), has claimed a decisive victory in the Netherlands’ general elections, sending shockwaves through the European political landscape.
The result was a surprise, as late in the campaign, polls began to suggest that Wilders, who is known for his anti-immigration stance and Islamophobic policies, could emerge victorious after 25 years in politics. The election took place on November 22, 2023, and the victory has significant implications for both the Netherlands and the European Union.
Wilders’ victory has caused concern in Brussels, as his Euroskepticism extends to the point of advocating for a ‘Nexit,’ or Netherlands’ exit from the European Union. Additionally, his stance on cutting off military aid to Ukraine has raised alarm in that country, as Wilders has pledged to put an end to such assistance.
The Netherlands, as the EU’s fifth-largest economy, holds significant sway in policymaking. For the past 13 years, the country has been led by center-right Mark Rutte, known as the “teflon prime minister” for his ability to navigate political scandals and negotiate pragmatically.
In addition to its influence within the EU, the Netherlands is a vital ally to the United States in trade and technology. The country has implemented export restrictions on advanced semiconductor equipment, crucial due to the presence of ASML, one of the most important semiconductor companies globally.
Next Steps in Forming the New Government
The process of forming a coalition in the Dutch parliament involves navigating complexities and difficult negotiations, especially given the contentious nature of Wilders’ win. While Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) secured 37 seats, there are no guarantees that he will become the new prime minister. It remains to be seen whether other parties will backtrack on their previous pledges not to work with the PVV.
Sarah de Lange, a professor at the University of Amsterdam, suggests that a right-wing government, comprising the PVV, Rutte’s conservative VVD Party, and Pieter Omtzigt’s New Social Contract party, is the most likely outcome. However, this would require Wilders to compromise on the extreme components of his manifesto, including proposals to ban the Quran and close mosques, which potentially violate the constitution.
Wilders’ Economic Policies and EU Nerves
The economic implications of a Wilders-led government remain uncertain, with analysts highlighting fiscal policy as a potential concern. His party’s populist stance, advocating for increased public spending and a reduction in contributions to the EU, may be challenging to balance.
Moreover, Wilders’ victory was driven by issues such as immigration and the Dutch housing crisis, rather than discussions on foreign policy and the European Union. While the victory may result in a more antagonistic approach within the EU, coalition partners are expected to temper its extent.
Nevertheless, the EU will closely observe the Netherlands’ government formation. To secure allies, Wilders may need to rule out a ‘Nexit’ vote, although polling data suggests a favorable view of the EU among a majority of Dutch citizens. A Wilders-led government could potentially disrupt EU policy-making, particularly in foreign policy areas like sanctions and support for Ukraine.
In the larger European context, the PVV’s victory and the rise of other populist parties could complicate the legislative landscape, particularly on issues such as climate change and foreign policy, as the EU heads into parliamentary elections next June.
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