The far right wins the elections in the Netherlands.  Will Islamophobia form a government?

Copyright: Image. John Theis/AFPPhoto by John Theis/AFP

the next His rule was crumbling, and he still managed to magically stay in power for 13 years. However, the era of Mark Rutte’s “Teflon” is approaching its end, and one of its last features was the elections that took place in the Netherlands on Wednesday, November 22, 2023.

Once again, the electoral law in force in the Netherlands provided the country with a completely divided House of Representatives, with no clear winner with an independent majority. As usual, building a difficult coalition will be necessary to form a government.

After the 98 percent conversion, it is known that the far-right populist Freedom Party, which will present 37 deputies to the 150-seat House of Representatives (in the previous period it had 17 seats), is the one that received the largest number of votes.

Directly behind the nationalists was the leftist coalition GroenLinks-PvdA (GL/PvdA). Back France Timmermansa In the local area it resulted in 25 seats (+8). In third place on the podium, the centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, until recently led by Prime Minister Rutte, won 24 seats, reducing its tally by 10 seats.

Established in August 2023 and almost until recent days considered the favourite, Peter Omtzgut’s New Social Contract eventually finished fourth and would send 20 MPs to The Hague.

The centrist Democrats and Social Liberals won 66 seats with nine seats (down by 15), while the Citizen Farmers Movement, exciting winners in March’s regional elections, won a disappointing seven seats. A total of 16 entities entered Parliament.

The leader and founder of the Victorious Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders, is one of the most controversial politicians in the Netherlands. He based his confession on spreading xenophobic slogans for more than a dozen years, primarily targeting the Muslim minority. He warns of the progressive “Islamization” of the country, which, in Wilders’ telling, will eventually lose its “cultural unity.” The leader of the Freedom Party was tried twice on charges of inciting racial hatred, although he was acquitted each time. He received so many death threats that he had to appear in public under armed guard.

The Freedom Party went into this election with a simple message: no more accepting refugees, no respect for the Qur’an, no more Islamic schools, no dual citizenship, no discrimination against “native” Dutch, and no apology for slavery. The group also more or less publicly calls for holding a referendum on the Netherlands’ exit from the European Union.

Like any self-respecting populist, Wilders has added some tough social promises to this list. The speech includes: an unspecified increase in the minimum wage, a zero value-added tax on food and a lowering of the retirement age. Wilders’ party also supports ending military support for Ukraine, which is fighting Russia.

The Freedom Party has a chance to hold ministerial portfolios for the first time in its history – in 2010, it briefly supported Rutte’s first government, but did not gain any positions at that time.

Current Prime Minister Rutte, who is retiring from politics, does not have to empty his drawers just yet – negotiations over the shape of the future coalition that have just begun could continue for several months. Suffice it to say that Rutte’s fourth government, which is still in power, was formed for a record period of 271 days.

In an analysis for The Guardian, John Henley noted that in the final phase before November 22, Wilders tactically softened his xenophobic tone to gain more room for maneuver in talks with potential partners. After the initial results were announced, the leader of the Freedom Party stated in a conciliatory manner that every party that wishes to bear responsibility for the state must make concessions and sacrifice some of its program.

“We will cooperate with other groups. I want to be prime minister of all Dutch people, regardless of their origins,” Wilders said.

So to whom can the Freedom Party send its envoys? outlet This suggests that Wilders may try to establish cooperation with the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, which has also called – using more moderate language – for immigration restrictions. Moreover, during the election campaign, the leadership of one of the parties in the ruling coalition did not rule out reaching such an agreement. The position of the VVD party did not change until the last hours.

I don’t think Wilders has a chance to become prime minister. “He wants to eliminate Islam in the Netherlands, and we need a leader who unites and does not divide,” party leader and Justice Minister Dylan Jescheljos Zegerius said during election night.

The left-wing GL/PvdA, and – at least so far – Peter Omtsigt, the leader of the neo-conservative liberal Social Contract, who has previously hinted that he is able to enter into an agreement with both the Liberal Party and the People, do not. We want to hear about a joint government with Wilders and Timmermans.

Such a Triple Entente scenario would become possible if Wilders’ party is indeed ostracized and fails to gather enough swords to form a government.

Of course, all of these formations (except perhaps the FFP-Left alliance) are fortunate, because pre-election statements, as we well know, often mean less than likely control of this or that ministry. Let us also remember that smaller groups will also be involved in the negotiations – so there are many viewpoints and interests to reconcile.

One thing is certain now, the Dutch borders will be less open in the coming years. The immigration issue, argued by the outgoing coalition that led to early elections, has become the main leitmotif in the battle for voter support. It is not difficult to guess where the anti-Islam Freedom Party stands on this issue, but the Freedom Party also favors a more restrictive immigration policy, although the leader of this group, Jeselgos-Zygerius, is, quite perversely, a refugee herself.

Omtzigt wants the new social agreement to set the annual limit of people coming to the Netherlands to be 50,000. Even the left-wing GL/PvdA coalition has demanded that the number of non-EU workers remain unchanged in the near future.

Political scientist Tom van der Meer estimates that it was the disagreement over the issue of immigration that allowed the Freedom Party to gain wind in its sails and double its support compared to the previous election in 2021. The rivals contributed to this success.

“The fact that the NSC environment and Rutte’s environment made immigration the driving force of their campaigns worked to the Freedom Party’s advantage. “Just as the fact that at some point the VVD leadership began to smile at Wilders,” the expert commented in an interview with public television NOS.

This is echoed by Rob Gitten, head of the Democratic Party 66, who will co-govern with Yesilgoz-Zygerius for a while.

“The VVD allowed the previous government to collapse because of refugees. At the same time, it facilitated the Freedom Party’s mission because, through its actions, it normalized a policy based on intolerance.

Beyond immigration, the main element of each party’s platform was solutions aimed at defusing the ticking housing crisis.

According to official reports, there is a shortage of about 400,000 apartments in the Netherlands, and rental prices have risen significantly in recent years.

Another focus of the campaign was the broadly understood social sphere. The leaders continued to put forward more or less free market ideas to improve the financial situation of Dutch families, especially in the face of rising energy prices.

However, the nitrogen issue is slightly overshadowed by the refugee conflict. Rutte’s government, committed to complying with Dutch and EU regulations, pledged to halve harmful nitrogen oxide emissions by 2030, and villages have had to bear the brunt of that shift – including the closure of livestock farms and expropriation. Announcements of radical cuts in agriculture led to massive and violent protests by farmers. The rise of the far-right in place of the pro-climate Timmermans will lead to a far-reaching review of these plans.

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