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2023 Dutch Elections: Far-Right Leader Geert Wilder Claims Victory

by Rahil M
0 comment

It’s a rare occurrence in Dutch history for the leader of the largest party not to assume the role of prime minister.

In a stunning turn of events, far-right politician Geert Wilders has secured victory in the Dutch elections, signalling a seismic shift in the country’s political landscape and sending ripples across Europe.

Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, the initial frontrunner, conceded defeat as Wilders’ anti-EU party surged past mainstream rivals. The Freedom Party, led by Wilders, is poised to claim 35 seats, more than doubling its representation from the previous parliament and outpacing its closest competitor by 10 seats.

It’s a rare occurrence in Dutch history for the leader of the largest party not to assume the role of prime minister. Wilders’ triumph poses a challenge to the European Union, particularly as the world anticipates the potential return of Donald Trump after the next U.S. election. Wilders, known for his anti-EU stance, has promised a binding referendum on EU membership and strongly criticized the bloc’s policies on issues such as climate change and immigration.

“The hope of the Dutch people is that they will get their country back,” remarked Wilders after an exit poll was published by state broadcaster NOS.

However, Wilders’ ability to lead the next government hinges on his capacity to form alliances with more centrist rivals. In his post-election speech, he called for a coalition that could include the liberal VVD, previously led by outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, which has hinted at the possibility of governing alongside Wilders. “I am willing to compromise in talks with other parties,” Wilders stated.

A surge in refugees following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and escalating costs of food and energy has contributed to increased support for far-right groups across Europe. This victory for Wilders comes amid similar trends, with Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland gaining more support than any party in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition.

The Dutch election campaign underscored how immigration has polarized voter opinions and driven support toward Wilders, who has made it a core issue for decades. The 60-year-old, known for his anti-Islamic views, has lived under police protection since 2004 due to death threats.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, also known for his strained relations with Brussels, swiftly congratulated Wilders on his victory.

Wilders and his team celebrated the result with enthusiasm, underlining the significance of the moment. However, the path ahead for Wilders is not without challenges. Forming a coalition government may require compromising with parties that lean more toward the center.

The outgoing caretaker government led by Rutte may continue for a while, especially if Wilders encounters difficulties in the coalition-building process. In the last election, it took four parties nine months to negotiate and form a majority government.

“The PVV cannot be ignored and wants to work together with other parties, and that means that we and they have to step over their shadow,” commented Wilders, emphasizing the need for collaboration.

This unexpected turn of events places a euroskeptic leader at the helm of one of the EU’s founding members, potentially influencing the direction of the Netherlands on international climate obligations, aid to Ukraine, and other key issues.

Despite Wilders’ past campaign pledges regarding the banning of the Quran and the closure of mosques, recent observations suggest a more moderate message, which appears to have resonated with voters.

Geert Wilders, a parliament member for 25 years, previously participated in government between 2010 and 2012, supporting Rutte’s first coalition from outside. However, Rutte ruled out future collaboration after Wilders made controversial comments about people of Moroccan descent, leading to his censure by the courts. As the dust settles on this unexpected victory, Wilders and his party’s role in shaping the Dutch government and influencing European politics will undoubtedly be closely watched in the months to come.

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