Anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders wins Dutch election

Geert Wilders (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) (Peter Dejong/)

The party of the anti-Islamist populist Geert Wilders achieved a resounding election victory in the Netherlands, as indicated by the almost complete count on Thursday, which showed the astonishing turn towards extreme right of a nation that was once famous for being a beacon of tolerance.

The result will shock Europe, where far-right ideology is on the rise, and places Wilders in a preferential position to negotiate the formation of the next government coalition that would make him the Netherlands’ first far-right minister.

With almost all the ballots counted, Wilders’ Freedom Party would win 37 seats in the 150-seat lower house of Parliamenttwo more than predicted by the exit poll at the close of the polls on Wednesday night and almost double the 17 he got in the last elections.

Wilders was applauded when he met his lawmakers in parliament on Thursday morning. “Can you imagine it? 37 seats!,” he said to cheers.

Wilders Celebrates (Reuters)
Wilders Celebrates (Reuters) (YVES HERMAN/)

Other formations met to address the outcome of the elections before what will likely be a arduous process to form a new government.

Wilders’ electoral program included the proposal to hold a referendum on membership of the Union Europeanthe paralysis of the arrival of applicants for asylum and the rejection of migrants on the border.

He also defends the “de-Islamization” of the Netherlands and maintains that he does not want mosques or Islamic schools in the country, although in this campaign he has shown a more moderate position towards Islam than in the past.

Although he is known for his harsh rhetoric, Wilders began courting other right-wing and centrist parties in a speech after his victory in which he stated that any policies he proposes “will be within the law and the Constitution.”

His victory seemed to be due to the campaign to stop the immigration — the cause of the resignation of the last coalition in July — and to address issues such as the cost of living crisis and the housing shortage in the country.

But to become prime minister of a nation known for its compromise policies, he will have to convince the leaders of other parties, a difficult task since the majority parties are reluctant to such an alliance. But the magnitude of his electoral victory strengthens his position in the negotiations.

Wilders called on other parties to engage constructively in the talks. Pieter Omtzigt, who left the ranks of the centrist Christian Democratic Call party to form his own, New Social Contract, three months ago and won 20 representatives in the general elections, said he had always I would be open to dialogue.

The second most voted formation was the center-left alliance between the Labor Party and the Green Left, which would have 25 seats. But its leader, Frans Timmermans, made it clear that Wilders I should not count on him as a future partner.

“We will never form a coalition with parties that maintain that asylum seekers are the source of all misery,” said Timmermans, who vowed to defend Dutch democracy.

This result is the latest in a series of elections that are altering the European political landscape. From Slovakia and Spain to Germany and Poland, populist and far-right parties have triumphed in some EU partners while failing in others.

(With information from AP)