Road to EU 2024

European political landscape rattled by Geert Wilders’ electoral triumph in the Netherlands

November 2023
By Maximilian Powell

Dutch politician Geert Wilders has clinched a resounding victory in the national general election in the Netherlands. His Freedom party (PVV) is set to secure 37 seats, well ahead of its nearest rival Frans Timmermans’ left-wing alliance. In a statement Wilders, who is known for his anti-Islam and populist stances towards the EU, proclaimed, “the PVV can no longer be ignored. We will govern”. This seismic win has not only rattled Dutch politics but is poised to reverberate across Europe.

However, to fulfil his commitment of being a “prime minister for everyone” Wilders must negotiate and rally other parties to form a coalition, aiming for a target of 76 seats in the 150-seat parliament. If he succeeds in becoming prime minister, Wilders would secure a seat at the European Council, potentially leading to disruptions in critical EU positions, including support for Ukraine. Moreover, his influence could hinder the ongoing efforts to reform the Union, particularly considering his advocacy for a Netherlands referendum to exit the EU.

Prior to the election, the major contenders had dismissed the idea of joining a Wilders-led government due to his far-right policies. However, the scale of his victory may change this. Securing a distant second with 25 seats, the left-wing alliance under ex-EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans made it unequivocally clear that they would have nothing to do with a Wilders-led government. “We won’t let anyone in the Netherlands go. In the Netherlands, everyone is equal”, he told supporters, also stating, “I suspect that we will end up in the opposition”. This leaves the third-placed centre-right liberal VVD under new leader Dilan Yesilgöz, after Mark Rutte stepped away, and a brand new party formed by whistleblower MP Pieter Omtzigt in fourth. It remains to be seen if they will go into coalition with PVV, as Omtzigt initially said his New Social Contract party would not work with Mr Wilders, but now says they are “available to turn this trust [of voters] into action”.

The PVV leader won after harnessing widespread frustration about migration, promising “borders closed”. The victory will send shockwaves around Europe, as the Netherlands is one of the founding members of what became the European Union. Nationalist and far-right leaders around Europe praised his achievement. In France, Marine Le Pen said it “confirms the growing attachment to the defence of national identities”.