The Netherlands faces difficulties in forming a government after the victory of right-wing populist Wilders

After the victory of right-wing populist Geert Wilders in the early parliamentary elections, the Netherlands is facing a difficult task of forming a government. Wilders’ PVV took 37 of 150 parliamentary seats after almost all votes were counted, almost doubling its 2021 result. Now the 60-year-old must overcome the challenge of forming a coalition with rivals who have ruled this out. Abroad, right-wing parties reacted enthusiastically – and their political competitors reacted with concern.

According to the almost complete results, the center-left alliance Groenlinks/PvdA with its leader Frans Timmermans has 25 seats in parliament, eight more than before. This is followed by the bourgeois-conservative VVD of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte with only 24 seats (-10). The newly founded New Social Contract party of the former Christian Democrat Pieter Omtzigt (NCP) has 20 seats.

Wilders told reporters he wanted to be the “prime minister of all Dutch people” and work “hard with other parties” to form a coalition. On Wednesday evening after the first forecasts were published, Wilders told supporters that his Freedom Party PVV could now “no longer be ignored.” The Dutch hoped that “people will get their land back and that we will ensure that the tsunami of asylum seekers and immigrants is reduced.”

However, it is unclear how Wilders could get the at least 76 seats in parliament that he needs for a viable coalition. Chairmen of other major parties had previously declared that they did not want to join a coalition led by the PVV.

However, NCP leader Omtzigt seemed to deviate from this position and said that he was “available” – even if the coalition talks were “not easy”. Former EU Commissioner Timmermans, however, once again ruled out a coalition with Wilders and declared: “Now is the time to defend democracy.”

Wilders’ victory is tantamount to a political earthquake for the Netherlands. The right-wing populist is known as the “Dutch Trump” – not only because of his bleached hair, which is combed back like former US President Donald Trump, but also because of his violent polemics against immigrants and Muslims.

Several right-wing politicians from other European countries congratulated Wilders on his “monster victory,” as the public broadcaster NOS described the election results.

France’s right-wing populist Marine Le Pen said on X that Wilders’ “spectacular” result confirmed “the growing support for the defense of national identities.” Hungary’s right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban also congratulated Wilders and wrote on X about a “wind of change”.

In Germany, the AfD’s parliamentary group leader, Alice Weidel, congratulated the 60-year-old on the online service

The election outcome sparked concern across the rest of the party spectrum. The SPD’s top candidate for the European elections, Katarina Barley, wrote on X that it was “getting darker in Europe”. With reference to the election in the Netherlands, calls for a change of course in migration policy were loud from the Union. CSU leader Markus Söder called for an “integration limit” and “clear stop signals,” while CDU foreign politician Norbert Röttgen called for solutions in migration policy. Green European politician Anton Hofreiter, on the other hand, spoke of a “clear message” to CDU leader Friedrich Merz that pandering to “right-wing populists and right-wing extremists” only makes them stronger.

During the Dutch election campaign, Wilders tried to present a more moderate image. In his PVV’s election program, asylum seekers are, among other things, supposed to “feast” for free, while Dutch families have to save on food. The PVV also calls for a ban on Islamic schools, the Koran and mosques, as well as a ban on headscarves in government buildings. The party is also aiming to vote in a “mandatory referendum” on the Netherlands’ exit from the EU.

“A very difficult time is beginning for Muslims,” Mushin Köktas from the Contact Point for Muslims and the Government (CMO) told the Dutch news agency ANP.

The new election of the Dutch parliament became necessary after the coalition led by long-time head of government Mark Rutte collapsed in a dispute over immigration policy at the beginning of July. Shortly afterwards, the head of government surprisingly announced his withdrawal from politics. Rutte will remain in office until a new government takes office.