Anti-Islam Populist Elected as the First Prime Minister of the Netherlands After the Collapse of the Decade-Long Rutte Rule
By: C. Paixão
On the 22nd of November 2023, the Dutch elections, which were only supposed to occur in 2025, were held and the victorious candidate was announced, spreading a shock wave through Europe. After Mark Rutte was forced to step down due to disagreements amongst the coalition parties regarding the immigration policy, the Prime Minister post was claimed by far-right and anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders, with over 21% of the votes, marking a new era for Netherlands after Rutte’s 13-year rule.
Wilders has held a parliamentary sat in the House of Representatives since 1998. In 2006, he founded the Party for Freedom (PVV) and has been representing it ever since. Wilders actively participated and joined the first Rutte cabinet in 2010, a minority section of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VDD), but two years later withdrew his support for the parliament due to the many disagreements that were occurring in the cabinet over budget cuts. Now, Wilders’ PVV is set to win 37 out of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, a record after their 25 years in parliament. Wilders is most recognized for his anti-immigration ideas, criticism of Islam, strong sense of criticism towards the European Union, as well as his relations with the Kremlin, turning him into a symbol of controversy not only in the Netherlands but also throughout the entirety of Europe. Thus, it is expected that his takeover of the Prime Minister seat is bound to extend and complicate coalition talks, which has raised alarm amongst fellow Dutch MPs and the international community.
Media all over the world describe Geert Wilders’ victory as “one of the biggest political upsets in Dutch policies since World War II” and a disappointment for the PVV. Wilders has consistently gone against many of the Netherlands’ alliances and immigration laws over the years, including opposing Turkey’s entrance into the European Union. This, according to the speculation of analysts, is one of the main factors that led to his victory, as he delivered a great performance during recent debates regarding the issue. Wilders has repeatedly talked openly about his frustration regarding migration and his desire for the ban of the Qur’an, the main religious text of Islam, which raised much support amongst the Dutch. Furthermore, after his win, Wilders was praised by various far-right leaders in Europe, including the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, French Deputy Marine Le Pen, Italian Vice Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, Portuguese Deputy André Ventura, German Bundestag member Alice Weidel, Belgium Chamber of Representatives member Tom Van Grieken, and Spanish Congress Deputy member Santiago Abascal. Nonetheless, Wilders’ win has provoked international upheaval, with the Islamic community and other nations sharing their concerns, frustrations, and disappointment with the Dutch population for electing an anti-Islam candidate at such a delicate time.