Populist right takes Holland

The Dutch elections have wider political significance.

THE HAGUE NETHERLANDS NOVEMBER 24 Geert Wilders L Dutch rightwing politician and leader of the Party for Freedom PVV sits next to Frans Timmermans leader of the GroenLinksPvdA alliance during a meeting in the Dutch parliament with party leaders to discuss the formation of a coalition government following Wilders victory in Wednesdays general election on November 24 2023 in The Hague Netherlands The Netherlands rightwing antiEU leader Geert Wilders won the most votes in parliamentary elections on November 22 and will now face the countrys political parties to form a government Photo by Carl CourtGetty Images
(Image credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Right-wing populist Geert Wilders won a “historic victory” for his Freedom party in last week’s Dutch elections, says Senay Boztas in The Spectator. The “shock” result saw his PVV party top the poll, with a quarter of the vote, more than doubling its representation in Parliament. Wilders declared that the antiimmigration PVV can now “no longer be ignored” and is set to govern. There had been widespread mistrust of the government following a series of scandals under former prime minister Mark Rutte, and anger over immigration, both of which prepared the ground for Wilders’ anti-establishment message. 

Tremors across Europe
Wilders may be celebrating, but the election itself really just marks “the end of the beginning”, says Jon Henley in The Guardian. With the PVV still well short of a majority, we can expect “endless horse-trading” as it tries to build a viable coalition to govern. The mainstream right-wing parties who had previously ruled out working with the PVV now say that “the result must be respected”, but “whole swathes” of Wilders’ manifesto are unacceptable to potential coalition partners, or “simply illegal”. Promises include a referendum on leaving the EU and an end to the free movement of EU workers. Wilders has said he is prepared to put his anti-Islam programme “on ice”, but experts say he will “need to go much further” than that.

In short, “the route to power for Wilders looks complicated”, says the Financial Times. The continued opposition of the centre-right VVD to serving directly in a Wilders-led government means “he has no chance of assembling a majority coalition”. The result will, however, still “send tremors across Europe” as his success “will embolden other anti-immigration, eurosceptic populists who are hoping for big gains in European parliamentary elections in June”. Wilders’ victory “once again underscores the potency of immigration as a campaign issue” at a time when Europe is struggling to cope with a surge of irregular migrants and asylum seekers.

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Tipping the political balance
Indeed, if Wilders does end up becoming Holland’s leader, he will be far from alone in the EU, says The Economist. Even after the Polish elections, which saw centrist liberals returned to power, populists of various stripes still run Italy, Hungary and Slovakia, and are doing well in the polls in Austria, Germany and even in Belgium. Centrist parties on both right and left are therefore shifting towards tougher immigration policies in many countries.

Similar forces are at work in the US as huge numbers of asylum seekers cross the southern border, which might well tip “the political balance… to the populist right” there too, says William Galston in The Wall Street Journal. The perceived failure of Joe Biden’s administration to respond to this effectively has created “new fiscal and social pressures across the country” and has divided even his own party. With Republicans “more trusted than Democrats to deal with border security by margins of 20 percentage points or more”, Biden needs to change course if he is to have a chance of being re-elected.

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Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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