Today, Europe woke up to the news of another far-right party winning an election on the old continent. The PVV – Nexit supporters and anti-Islam – won 37 of the 150 seats in the Dutch House of Representatives, with their victory also bearing heavy symbolic weight. The party’s discourse against migrants, climate action and pro-Dutch nationalism contrasts with the programme of the second-in-line. The Green and Labour coalition (GLPVDA), led by former Commissioner Frans Timmermans, stands 12 seats behind Geert Wilders’ far-right alternative. The Dutch voting system being fully proportional, the result can only be interpreted an unequivocal choice made by Dutch voters, many of whom support the claims of the anti-globalisation movement.
The news may have come as a shock to many. In the early days of the campaign, all eyes were on the race between the VVD (Mark Rutte’s former party), which had seemed the sure winner, the NSC (a new Christian Democrat party) and the GLPVDA (a green and labour coalition headed by Timmermans). Despite 11 years in government, early polls showed the VVD as the clear frontrunner, maintaining the seats it had obtained in 2021.
So, what can explain the shift of support to the PVV in the last weeks?
According to political analysts, the PVV gained popularity following an announcement by new VVD leader, Dilan Yeşilgöz, that a coalition between the VVD and PVV after the elections was possible. This statement ended a long-standing tradition of maintaining the far-right party on the sidelines and legitimised the radical political project of the PVV, which has moderated their discourse in recent weeks. While in previous elections, a vote for the PVV was regarded as a lost ballot due to the refusal of other parties to form a coalition with them, the change in position of the VVD made the PVV a viable option to force a right-wing coalition. As a result, the PVV won 20 seats compared to 2021, while the VVD lost 10.
Regardless of the PVV’s win, the new distribution of seats in the House of Representatives does not yet ensure a right-wing government will be formed in the Netherlands, with the formation period set to start this Friday. It is unclear whether the VVD will support a government with Geert Wilders as Prime Minister. In fact, leaders of other parties have expressed their concerns about a coalition government led by PVV. Frans Timmermans has stated: “It is now the time for us to defend democracy”, showing concern for the rule of law in the Netherlands. Christian Union leader Mirjam Bikker has called for a united front against the polarisation of Dutch politics: “Our country is built on minorities who keep each other whole and know how to find each other. These elections therefore put a lot at stake and that requires wisdom from the winners of these elections for the entire country instead of fueling polarisation.”
On the right, political parties are less skeptical. The farmer’s party, BBB, has expressed interest in joining negotiations with PVV to form a government coalition with VVD and NSC. Despite not reaching numerical majority, BBB’s strong position in the senate makes them a desirable ally. However, such a union would come with conditions: BBB has expressed that any coalition agreement with PVV is dependent on their rejection of plans to leave the EU (Nexit) and ban of the Quran.
Only a few hours away from the Hague, Brussels observes the events unfold. Are the European Institutions ready for a European Council with Geert Wilders, Giorgia Meloni and Victor Orbán? Looking ahead to the European elections, the results of the Dutch elections confirm a general shift to the right across the continent. However, if there is anything we have learnt, it is that elections cannot be predicted, especially six months ahead of ballot boxes being placed around the EU.