All eyes on Dutch govt formation after vote shock
Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders vowed "the Netherlands will be returned to the Dutch". Photo: AAP
Dutch anti-EU far-right populist Geert Wilders will start looking for coalition partners after a massive election win expected to have wide repercussions in the Netherlands and Europe.
A fan of Hungary’s Eurosceptic Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the vocally anti-Islam 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 predictions, his 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 MP Pieter Omtzigt would have 81 seats, 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 share his anti-EU ideas.
“I am confident we can reach an agreement,” he said in his victory speech late on Wednesday (local time).
“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 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 II 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.
Wilders has repeatedly said the Netherlands should stop providing arms to Ukraine because 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”.
All eyes now turn to Wilders’ potential government partners who had expressed serious doubts about working with him during the campaign, but were 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 said it was up to the winner to show he could get a majority.
“We are not in a position to take the lead,” she said.
Parties were to meet on Thursday to discuss what to do next.