The clear electoral victory of Geert Wilders also caused a sensation beyond the Netherlands. What is the reason for the good performance of the PVV in the legislative elections?
Geert Wilders’ election victory came as a big surprise to many, including me. Even though I had assumed that these elections would be protest elections, I expected that Pieter Omtzigt’s new party, the “New Social Contract”, or the peasant-citizen movement would benefit more. In the last two weeks before the election, the mood has changed. On the one hand, this was due to external influences such as the war in Israel, but on the other hand, Omtzigt and others also made serious mistakes from which Geert Wilders took advantage. It should also be remembered that he was the most experienced of all the top candidates.
What did Omtzigt do wrong?
His biggest mistake was certainly to publicly hesitate to become prime minister. Geert Wilders then stepped into this power vacuum. In the eyes of many voters, he became the alternative leader of a protest movement.
So, as is often claimed today, the migration question did not play a decisive role?
But. Migration is the issue that worries the Netherlands the most. There is therefore a consensus within the conservative parties on the need to drastically limit immigration. Not because they are all racist, but because society is increasingly outdated. In the Netherlands there is a combination of asylum migration, labor migration and many international students. In addition, the Netherlands has taken in 100,000 Ukrainians since the start of the war. It is therefore hardly possible, especially for young Dutch people, to find affordable housing, especially in big cities. This parliamentary election focused primarily on issues of migration and housing.
To become Prime Minister, Geert Wilders must find at least two coalition partners. Will he succeed?
It’s very difficult to say! Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party, the VVD, has just announced that it is not ready to form a coalition with Wilders. We can therefore wonder if he will be able to form a coalition and become Prime Minister. If he doesn’t do so, it would be a kind of democratic betrayal, because voters gave him a clear majority. At the same time, his program presents obvious tensions with the rule of law. He said these points should not play a role in a future government – that’s why he is already called Geert Milders in the Netherlands – but it is questionable whether this will end up happening. If Geert Wilders actually manages to form a government, it will be up to the coalition partners to tame it.
How can Geert Wilders be classified within the European right?
His party is definitely not comparable to the AfD in Germany, even if Alice Weidel congratulated him on his election. There are no Nazis in Wilders’ circle. He is against Islam but for Israel. Instead, he criticizes Muslims for their anti-Semitism. It is difficult to say how Geert Wilders will behave if he actually comes to power. Even Giorgia Meloni’s worst fears were not confirmed. Dutch voters gave him a mandate to limit migration and solve the housing crisis, but not to leave the European Union. A very large majority of Dutch people reject the so-called Nexit.
What lessons should other parties learn from Wilders’ good performance?
His electoral victory has a lot to do with anti-establishment sentiment in the Netherlands. Besides, this is something that I notice more and more in Germany. In this regard, these elections should also be a wake-up call for Germany. The political center needs to ask itself what it is doing wrong when such a large group of the population votes for the political right. If the political center does not deliver on its promises, a vacuum is created for populists. When people feel that city dwellers and academics determine the course of a country, it strengthens populists. In this regard, the elections in the Netherlands provide an excellent example of what is currently happening in Europe and around the world.
So is there a risk of a further shift to the right in next year’s European elections?
If the other parties don’t change radically, yes. The political center parties have lost contact with a large part of the population and are seen as representatives of the political elite. This undermines middle-class democracies across Europe. The result is now observable in many countries. To counter this, we need again more justice and more democracy, rather than a policy imposed from above. I doubt anything will change significantly between now and the European elections.