Wilders celebrates “a historic day”: the extreme right is close to power in The Hague

Geert Wilders' Islamophobic far-right will lead the Netherlands' next government.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
15 May 2024 Wednesday 10:28
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Wilders celebrates “a historic day”: the extreme right is close to power in The Hague

Geert Wilders' Islamophobic far-right will lead the Netherlands' next government. “It is a dream”, “a historic day”, declared yesterday mid-afternoon the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) when announcing that he had reached a provisional agreement with three other political parties – Mark Rutte's liberals, a party of the Christian Democratic orbit and the farmers' party – to form what will undoubtedly be the most conservative coalition in the history of the country.

The government agreement, summarized in a 25-page document that was voted last night by the leaders of the parliamentary factions of the four parties involved, arrived in stoppage time, on the edge of the deadline set by the negotiators after almost six months of contacts. , four different intermediaries and a threat to derail the negotiations that was finally saved by Wilders' decision to resign as prime minister.

His future partners did not want the far-right, addicted to provocations and xenophobic attacks, who has been convicted of insulting the Moroccan population, to be “the face of the Netherlands.” And, although it has not yet been decided who will lead the new government, it has emerged that Wilders has offered the position to former Labor minister Ronald Plasterk, a free electron in political terms who unsuccessfully mediated between the different parties last year.

Another peculiarity of the agreement, reflecting the level of risk of the political operation, is that the leaders of the parties of the future coalition will remain in Parliament and will not be part of the government. The plan is to appoint an “extra-parliamentary government” – or semi-technocratic – in which ministerial portfolios will be assigned to figures outside the parties.

The mistrust between the future partners is, in short, total and resonates as a bad omen for the stability of the coalition. An important sector of the liberal party (VVD), which remembers the bad experience of depending on Wilders in 2012, when Rutte's first government fell, is reluctant to the idea of ​​collaborating with the extreme right. On a personal level, it is with Pieter Omtzigt – the leader of the New Social Contract, a new party emerging from Christian democracy – that the founder of the PVV gets along the worst.

Wilders, on the other hand, has reached an understanding without problems with the leader of the BBB, the Citizen Peasant Movement, Caroline van der Plas. The farmers' party made a splash in the March 2023 regional elections, but achieved limited success in the November legislative elections. While the social democrats called progressives to vote usefully without much success, the extreme right practiced it around the figure of Wilders at a level that no electoral poll detected.

The content of the pact was published last night after the four parliamentary groups ratified it. Its main glue is the desire to reduce the numbers of foreigners in the country, both economic immigrants and specialized workers and students. The document promises to apply “the toughest immigration and asylum policy” in the country's history. Among the novelties, a new law on the asylum crisis that allows the processing of protection requests to be suspended in certain cases. The national immigrant redistribution plan that has just come into force and which has sparked strong protests in some regions will also be annulled. The new government is committed to reducing income tax for the middle classes, expanding free daycare and halving the cost of health insurance between now and 2027, in line with the New Social Contract program.

They also commit to restoring – “where possible” – the maximum driving speed of 130 km per hour on highways, lowered by the previous government to reduce nitrogen emissions. And although the PVV had opposed providing support to Ukraine against Russia, the agreement reiterates that it will continue to support the invaded country "from the political, military, financial and moral point of view" (the outgoing Government has been one of the partners most relevant from Kyiv) although regarding the enlargement of the EU they clarify that they are “very critical.” And in a concession to Wilders, the next Government will “explore” the possibility of moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Until Pim Fortuyn's emergence onto the national political scene 25 years ago shouting “The Netherlands is full”, the Dutch were the great champions of multiculturalism in Europe. Fortuyn's murder was the starting signal for the emergence of different anti-immigration far-right parties, among which Wilders' PVV, despite its monotheistic character and the variable success of its ideological proposal, has turned out to be the most resistant. In November he won 37 of the 150 seats in the Dutch Parliament. Europe's sociological laboratory for decades, this time the Netherlands is not exactly a pioneer. The extreme right is already part of the current coalition governments in Italy, Sweden and Finland and aspires to advance positions in the European elections in June.