In the Netherlands, 'a Stunning Lurch to the Far Right'

Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom won big, while 'human rights lost,' per Amnesty International
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 23, 2023 7:40 AM CST
In the Netherlands, 'a Stunning Lurch to the Far Right'
Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom, known as PVV, answers questions to media after announcement of the first preliminary results of general elections in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The party of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders won a huge general election victory in the Netherlands, according to a nearly complete vote count early Thursday that showed a stunning lurch to the far right for a nation once famed as a beacon of tolerance, per the AP. With nearly all votes counted, Wilders' Party for Freedom was forecast to win 37 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, two more than predicted by an exit poll when voting finished Wednesday night and more than double the 17 the party secured in the last election. "Can you imagine it? 37 seats!" Wilders, who could become the next prime minster, said to cheers as he met his lawmakers at the parliament building Thursday morning and received a standing ovation.

In a statement on its website, the Dutch branch of Amnesty International said: "Yesterday human rights lost. A racist party won the Dutch elections." Wilders' election program included calls for a halt to accepting asylum-seekers, migrant pushbacks, and the "de-Islamization" of the Netherlands. He says he wants no mosques or Islamic schools in the country. Although known for his harsh rhetoric, Wilders began courting other right-wing and centrist parties by saying in a victory speech that whatever policies he pushes will be "within the law and constitution." His victory appeared based on his campaign to curtail migration—the issue that caused the last governing coalition to quit in July—and to tackle issues such as the Netherlands' cost-of-living crisis and housing shortages.

Other political parties were holding separate meetings to discuss the election's outcome before what is likely to be an arduous process of forming a new governing coalition begins Friday. To become prime minister of a country known for compromise politics, Wilders must persuade other party leaders to work with him. The party that came next to Wilders' in the election was an alliance of the center-left Labor Party and Green Left, which was forecast to win 25 seats, and its leader, Frans Timmermans, made clear that Wilders should not count on him as a partner. However, Pieter Omtzigt, a former centrist Christian Democrat who built his own New Social Contract party in three months to take 20 seats, said he would always be open to talks. (More Netherlands stories.)

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