Sunday

25th Sep 2022

Massive swing to the right in Dutch elections

  • Mark Rutte - the likely new Dutch leader, has promised almost €20 billion in spending cuts in coming years, including €1 billion a year less for the EU pot (Photo: NewsPhoto!)

Conservative liberal Mark Rutte narrowly won the Dutch general elections on Wednesday (9 June). But the big shock of the night is that 1.5 million people - almost one in five - voted for the islamophobe Geert Wilders.

With 97 percent of the vote counted, Mr Rutte's VVD party won 31 seats and the centre-left Labour Party (PvdA) won 30. Mr Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) came third with 24, showing up pollsters who had predicted he would win at best 18.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The ruling centre-right Christian Democrats (CDA) got 21, losing half their support and prompting an emotional resignation by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

The result could see a right and far-right VVD-PVV-CDA coalition with 76 out of 150 seats in parliament. Mr Rutte on Wednesday congratulated Mr Wilders first out of the other winners. A VVD spin doctor, Frits Huffnagel, said talks with the PVV should quickly begin.

Dutch commentators are not yet ruling out a left-leaning coalition led by the VVD and PvdA, however. Strong gains by the social liberal D66 party and Green Left faction, which have ruled out any deal with Mr Wilders, make the scenario more plausible.

The uncertainty means that the eurozone's fifth largest economy, which is heading for an EU-rule-busting deficit of 6.6 percent this year, could remain leaderless for an extended period. Mr Rutte said he aims to form a government by 1 July. But last time around coalition talks took three months.

The result also means the Netherlands will lose a major player in the EU Council. The devout Calvinist former prime minister, Mr Balkenende, earned himself a reputation as an able statesman over the past eight years in Brussels and was in 2009 a serious candidate for the job of EU Council president.

The likely new leader, Mr Rutte, an unmarried, 43-year-old former business executive, has pointed to a cooling of relations with the EU. Mr Rutte is keen to cut his country's EU budget contribution by over €1 billion a year and to curb further integration.

Inside the Netherlands, the rise of Mr Wilders is expected to increase social tension.

Young liberal and green voters gathered for an election night event at the Melkweg music venue in Amsterdam on Wednesday gasped and booed every time the screens showed Mr Wilders' party leaping ahead in small south-lying towns, where the PVV picked up many former Balkenende supporters.

"Throwing mud at a particular group does not contribute to a harmonious society," Moroccan activist Driss El Boujoufi told the Dutch press agency ANP.

Many Wilders supporters are white, working class people worried about crime and immigration, with the Netherlands home to one of Europe's largest Muslim concentrations, making up six percent of the population.

Mr Wilders, who lives under 24-hour police protection, is currently facing charges for incitement to hatred in the Netherlands over his film, Fitna, which describes the Koran as "fascist." He advocates banning the Muslim veil and the building of new Mosques. But his new model far-right party is also pro-Israeli, gay-friendly and keen to protect social benefits.

"More security, less crime, less immigration, less Islam - that is what the Netherlands has chosen," he said on Dutch TV on Wednesday.

EU seeks crisis powers to take control over supply chains

The Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) introduces a staged, step-by-step, approach — providing emergency powers to the EU Commission to tackle any potential threat which could trigger disruptions or shortages of key products within the EU.

Testimony from son rocks trial of ex-Czech PM Babiš

In a fraud trial relating to €2m in EU subsidies, Andrej Babiš son testified his signature on share-transfer agreements was forged. He claims his father transferred the shares to him without his knowledge, making him a front man for scheme.

‘Rushed’ EP secretary-general pick sparks legal complaint

The appointment has been criticised for being rushed — Alessandro Chiocchetti only takes up his new position in January — and for overlooking other candidates, whose experience in administration management was seen as more substantial.

Investigation

Dismantling Schengen — six months at a time

Several EU countries have put in place almost permanent internal border controls, circumventing the Schengen Agreement on free movement. The EU Court of Justice declared such controls illegal. Now they are trying to loosen Schengen rules in Brussels negotiations.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

Editorial

Background reads: Italy's election

With Italy heading to the ballot boxes this Sunday, let's take a look at what EUobserver has published that can help understand the country's swing to the (far)-right.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us