Geert Wilders has hailed his party’s General Election results despite exit polls saying he is in second
Right-wing Dutch MP Geert Wilders has accused the country’s victorious Prime Minister Mark Rutte of treating his supporters like ‘semi Nazis’ after his party lost the General Election.
Rutte’s VVD party won with a predicted 31 seats in the 150-seat parliament, while Wilders’ populist PVV party is estimated to be joint second, alongside two other parties, with 19 seats.
The anti-Islam politician has previously promised to deliver a Nexit, a Dutch version of Brexit from the EU, and a ‘patriotic revolution’ to the Dutch people.
The polls represent a decrease of 10 seats for Rutte and an increase of seven seats for Wilders.
Speaking after exit polls predicted he had won his third term as Prime Minister, a jubilant Rutte said: ‘This is an evening where the Netherlands, after Brexit and Trump, said ‘That’s enough of the wrong sort of populism’.
Comments that Wilder said were: ‘very worrying, as if populists are semi-Nazis’.
However, despite his party’s unexpectedly poor position, Wilders has remained upbeat about the future of the PVV.
He tweeted: ‘We won seats! The first victory is in! And Rutte hasn’t seen the last of me!’
He later said: ‘I’d preferred to have been the winner of the elections, but the VVD have lost 10 seats and we’re among the winners in second.
‘If all the losers like the VVD form a government, we need to have a strong opposition of winners like the PVV.’
Pictured: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte celebrates the results of exit polls showing his party were set to win the country’s general election
Wilders’ one-page election manifesto included pledges to close borders to immigrants from Muslim nations, shuttering mosques and banning the Koran, as well as taking the Netherlands out of the European Union.
His Party For Freedom had won 15 seats on the previous general election in 2012, with support reaching its peak in 2015, but his seats dwindled to just 12 before Wednesday’s vote.
Speaking as he cast his vote today, he said: ‘Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle. And this patriotic revolution, whether today or tomorrow, will stay.’
Rutte’s junior partner in the outgoing coalition, Labour, suffered its worst ever result at the election, winning just nine seats, down from 38 last time.
Rutte – who has vowed never to work alongside Wilders – will now attempt to form a coalition government and could possibly turn to the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the Democracy party (D66).
Pictured: A pie chart showing the current make up of the Dutch Parliament, with Mark Rutte’s VVD party holding 40 seats and Wilders PVV holding 12
Pictured: A pie chart showing the make up of the Dutch Parliament as of 2012, with Mark Rutte’s VVD party holding 40 seats and Wilders PVV holding 15
A coalition could take weeks or even months, with at least three other parties needed to reach a majority in parliament.
The PM said: ‘It seems like for third time in a row the VVD is the Netherlands biggest party.
‘Our message to the Netherlands – that we will hold our course, and keep this country safe and stable – got though.’
Officials in France and Germany – both who have elections to fight against resurgent right-wing opposition later in the year – rushed to praise the result as a victory for middle-ground parties.
Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is set to make France’s presidential election run-off in May, while eurosceptic, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany is likely to enter the German federal parliament for the first time in a September election.
DUTCH ELECTIONS: WHO’S WHO
VVD (People’s Party for Freedom) – liberal/conservative, led by PM Mark Rutte.
PVV (Party for Freedom) – anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, led by Geert Wilders
PvdA (Labour Party) – social democratic party, sister party of British Labour Party
SP (Socialist Party) – further to the left of Labour
CDA (Christian Democrats) – moderate, pro-religion
D66 (Democrats 66) – liberals, support direct democracy, founded in 1966
GL (Green Left) – upcoming alliance of far-Left and Greens, led by Jesse Klaver
This year’s elections saw the highest turnout in the past 31 years, with 82 per cent of people going out to vote, according to Ipsos.
It is believed the Rutte took lead because of his tough stance during the Dutch government’s recent row with Turkey.
The PM got a last-minute boost from the diplomatic dispute, which allowed him to take a well-timed tough line on a majority Muslim country during an election campaign in which immigration and integration have been key issues.
The spat did not hurt the chances of Denk, a party supported by Dutch Turks, which looked set to win three seats, becoming the first ever ethnic minority party, in a possible sign of deepening ethnic division.
But while Rutte averted what in the early stages of the campaign looked like a possible victory for Wilders, years of austerity pushed down his share of the vote.
The defeat for Wilders has been welcomed by German chancellor Angela Merkel, with a spokesman tweeting a message to Rutte on her behalf saying: ‘I look forward to working with you as friends, neighbours and Europeans.’
Mark Rutte’s VVD party currently has 31 seats according to the polls, while Wilders’ Party for Freedom is joint second, alongside two other parties, with 19 seats
Firebrand leader Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party (PVV) casts his ballot for Dutch general elections. He said: ‘This patriotic revolution, whether today or tomorrow, will stay’
WHO IS GEERT WILDERS?
Geert Wilders founded the right-wing Party For Freedom in 2006 and rallied against what he saw as the ‘Islamification’ of the Netherlands.
Wilders, who has led his party in four elections, has vowed to confiscate Korans, close mosques and Islamic schools, shut Dutch borders and ban migrants from Islamic countries among a raft of other anti-Islamic moves.
His policies have seen him receive a barrage of death threats and reportedly leaving him forced to wear a bullet proof vest around the clock.
After working in health insurance, he ventured into politics and first took public office at Utrecht City Council in 1997 for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
However, he left the VVD – now led by current Dutch PM Mark Rutte – in 2004, after it supported Turkey accession to the European Union.
Wilders was temporarily banned from visiting the UK by Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, after he released a offensive film linking the Koran to terrorism.
In December last year, he was found guilty of discrimination against Moroccans after comments he made during an election rally in 2014.
Wilders found himself at the centre of controversy again in 2015, after he attended a ‘draw the prophet Muhammad’ contest and it was attacked by gunman.
The politician was a guest speaker at the event in Dallas, US, attended by 150 people, when the shooters opened fire. A security officer was shot in the leg, but survived the attack. While the gunman were shot dead by police.
Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, also posted his delight at the prediction that Wilders would lose.
He tweeted in Dutch: ‘Netherlands you are a champion! Congratulations on this great result!
Germany also faces parliamentary elections in September, in which the anti-immigration, eurosceptic Alternative for Germany party, allied with Wilders, is hoping to enter the Berlin federal parliament for the first time.
The results have been welcomed by former president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who tweeted: ‘We must continue to fight for an open and free Europe.’
Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University in the United States, said defeat for Wilders, who has been in parliament for nearly two decades, should not be considered a sign that European populism is waning.
‘He does not represent a populist wave. Rather, he is part of the political landscape and how his party fares does not tell us much about European populism,’ she said.
‘The real bellwether election will be Marine Le Pen’s quest for the French presidency, starting April 23 that is where the populist action is and that is what we should be focusing upon.’
In a subplot of the elections, the Green Left party were set to register a historic victory, turning it into the largest party on the left wing of Dutch politics for the first time.
Wilders’ one-page election manifesto includes pledges to close borders to immigrants from Muslim nations, shuttering mosques and banning the Koran
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has framed the election as a choice between continuity and chaos, portraying himself as a safe custodian of the nation’s economic recovery
The Greens leapt from four seats to 16 in parliament after a strong campaign by charismatic leader Jesse Klaver, who invites comparisons to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
‘This is a fantastic result for us, a historic victory,’ Green Left chairwoman Marjolein Meijer said.
It remains to be seen if the 30-year-old Klaver will take his party into the next ruling coalition, which looks likely to be dominated by Rutte’s VVD and other right-leaning parties.
Europe Votes – What Comes Next?
French President election: April 23 and May 7
German parliamentary election: September 24
Because of the result, it also looked unlikely that Labour leader Dijsselbloem would be able to hang on to his post of leading the 19-nation Eurogroup, which manages the currency of the European Union nations that use the euro.
Queues began swelling early at the polls today and the research institute IPSOS said turnout was already ‘a lot’ higher than at the same point in 2012 when final participation was 74 per cent.
Amid the tussle between Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Wilders, many of the 12.9 million eligible voters had been wavering between the 28 parties running.
‘Netherlands does not belong to all. Do you hear me? The Netherlands belongs to the Dutch,’ Wilders said in Tuesday’s debate.
In the same debate, Rutte said: ‘When people look for leadership, they look to me.’
As he voted today, he said: ‘This is a crucial election for The Netherlands.
‘This is a chance for a big democracy like The Netherlands to make a point… to stop this… domino effect of the wrong sort of populism.’
Netherlands’ Labour Party leader and current vice prime minister Lodewijk Asscher casts a ballot at a polling station in Amsterdam
Following the vote in the Netherlands (above), the French go to the polls next month with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen currently in second place behind centrist Emmanuel Macron
RUTTE SAYS BREXIT PUTS BRITAIN IN DEEP TROUBLE
Mark Rutte said last night that Brexit could cause ‘potentially irreparable harm’ for the UK.
He said Britain’s economic growth had remained strong since last year’s Brexit vote only because the pound had sunk.
He warned: ‘If you look below the surface, the English economy suffers potentially irreparable harm because of their Brexit.’
Rutte said the Brexit vote had already led to a ‘tectonic shift’ within the international banking community that still had London as one of its biggest global hubs. He said American banks were seeking to leave the City of London and have shown a keen interest in Amsterdam as a new hub.
He also said Britain could struggle to negotiate a favourable deal, saying ‘I don’t see right away how they can negotiate a deal with Europe in the future. It will never be as good as what they have now.’