The party of Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam populist, has won the most votes in a shock victory in the Dutch parliamentary elections.
Wilders’ Freedom party is expected to win 37 seats in Parliament, but will need to form a coalition if it hopes to govern and put Wilders forward as the Netherlands’ next prime minister.
The veteran politician, who has been compared to former U.S. President Donald Trump, is an EU-skeptic who campaigned for a Brexit-style referendum on Dutch membership in the bloc. He has also proposed a ban on the Quran, Islamic schools, and mosques.
Polling suggests that Wilders’ “Nexit” platform is unpopular, and a referendum on the Netherlands membership in the European Union would likely flop. But the leader is still likely to be a thorn in Brussels’ side, Politico notes: His seat at the table means that “policies ranging from climate action, to EU reform and weapons for Ukraine will be up for debate, and even reversal.”
Wilders’ Freedom party (PVV) does not have enough seats to govern alone, so he will need to convince others to form a coalition. That means a Wilders premiership may be just out of reach: Several party leaders have already refused to work with him. Analysts say that at least three parties will need to agree to form a coalition, and such conversations could take months to complete, the Financial Times noted. In that scenario, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte may remain in his role as a caretaker while parties nail down the terms of a deal.
Wilders’ party benefited from voter concerns over asylum-seekers and migration, Dutch outlet NRC noted. The Freedom party has long been seen as the principal voice opposing immigration in the Dutch Parliament, “and seems to have received the right-wing protest vote en masse,” NRC reported. Left-wing leaders have voiced concern about the safety of immigrants in the Netherlands following the election: DENK party leader Stephan van Baarle called the outcome “an outright threat to one million Muslims.”