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Are the Dutch set for a sharp turn to the Right?

PVV leader Geert Wilders could be a kingmaker in the next election. Credit: Getty

November 21, 2023 - 10:00am

You read it here first. Last month, Senay Boztas wrote about the resurgence of Geert Wilders — who leads the anti-immigration Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands.

The key question is whether Wilders will do well enough in tomorrow’s general election to get into government. According to the latest polling the answer is a definite ja. On these numbers, it’s going to be very difficult to form a stable coalition without his participation or support.

Indeed, from this position it’s possible that the Freedom Party could finish a clear first which, in theory, would put Wilders in pole position to become prime minister.

How did it come to this? Whatever happened to the free-wheeling, chilled-out Netherlands of British imagination? To be fair, angry Dutch voters have tried to find alternatives to Wilders. Like an adventurous customer at an Amsterdam coffee shop, they’ve sampled all the varieties of Dutch populism.

The experimentation began with Thierry Baudet and his Forum for Democracy. When that got weird, the voters turned to JA21 — a Forum splinter group. After that wore off, the next hit was the BBB — a farmers’ protest group that accidentally turned into a major political party. Then, most recently, it was the turn of Pieter Omtzigt and his New Social Contract party.

Omtzigt is a fascinating character. To translate him into British terms, imagine a Conservative MP exposing a scandal every bit as shocking as our Post Office scandal only on a much bigger scale. The MP becomes a national hero — but then has a spectacular falling out with the Tories. He quits, only to emerge months later to start an instantly successful populist party of his own. 

A few weeks ago, the amazing Omtzigt was all set to win the election — except that his populism wasn’t quite populist enough for some voters. And so, on the principle of better the devil you know, this footloose section of the electorate has returned to Wilders. 

But could Wilders really become prime minister? He would need to put together a majority coalition — and with a projected 26 seats in the 150 seat House of Representatives, the Freedom Party is nowhere near that hurdle. Even with the other populist parties (among whom little love is lost) Wilders would still be well short.

The problem for the establishment parties is that Dutch politics is now so divided that they, too, will struggle to form viable coalitions. For instance, the parties of the current centrist coalition are set for a pummelling by the voters — and thus won’t have the numbers to carry on. Meanwhile, EU bigwig Frans Timmermans has returned from Brussels to lead a centre-Left alliance, but with a projected 23 seats, it’s hard to see them commanding a majority.

Therefore, though the other parties can probably stop Wilders from becoming prime minister, keeping him from a share of power will be difficult. A grand coalition of the Liberals, the Left and Omtzigt’s party might freeze him out, yet it would likely fall apart over the issue of immigration (just like the current coalition did).

So forget your preconceptions: the Dutch are set for a sharp turn to the Right.


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
7 months ago

It’s not that the citizens are becoming more right. It’s that the Dutch government has become so leftwing authoritarian that it has actually become an impediment to human flourishing. I tried to start a business here, but there are so many rules and laws that they start to contradict each other and it gets difficult to know which ones to pay heed to and which ones to ignore.
Due to burgeoning bureaucracy it is difficult to start anything here; creativity and entrepreneurship are stifled unless you know the right people.
Similar to other Western countries, the Netherlands is splitting in two: the urban left and the provincial right. One example of how authoritarian the Netherlands is becoming is a new law being proposed wherein the Dutch government can decide who you sell your house to based on a needs-approach. The rule is that if you sell your house for 355,000 euros or under, the municipality decides who can buy it.
https://www.vanhuyse.nl/blog/gemeenten-krijgen-controle-over-verkoop-van-koopwoningen-tot-355-000-euro/
Sounds utopian in theory, but in practice this means that people will just put their house price up in order to be able to sell to the highest bidder.
There are more rules like this and they have only been increasing. In effect, by following one law, you may end up breaking another. It creates unresolvable tax situations. Because of this, anyone with a bit of brains and ability is leaving the Netherlands and moving to places where their skill and drive are welcomed.
https://www.emigrerenuitnederland.nl/2023/02/06/aantal-emigraties-in-2022-met-bijna-20-toegenomen/
The problem with Dutch politics is that it attracts people who have the moral maturity of a freshman student. To them making money from business is seen as predatory, therefore all kinds of enterprises that are not officially approved by them must be shut down.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
7 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

It is becoming axiomatic that the effect of every experiment in social engineering will be the exact opposite of what was intended.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
7 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Yes, the problem is that we are producing too many college students with very little life experience, but who firmly believe government can solve every human discomfort. When government gets too big, people lose the will to do things for themselves. It’s one of the problems I have with our current rights-based culture. For instance it’s no longer enough to be gay or transexual. These lifestyles need continual championing by charitable NGOS and endless government ‘endorsement’ to the point that these fringe groups start enjoying an unprecedented level of privilege over the citizenry while still claiming victimhood, hence the reason for the recent rise in anti-LGBQT rhetoric.
Too much social engineering creates a multitude of toxic orthopedic subcultures that produce very little but demand so much from the rest of us.
The core issue here is self-governance. To anyone paying attention, any movement toward self-governance is quickly labelled populist or right-wing by the establishment. It is almost as if the ruling classes want us to be fragile and helpless. Yet self-governance is crucial to human flourishing. When we are handed everything on a silver platter we become selfish narcissistic little clods.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
7 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Well said!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
7 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Wow! Thanks for the info.

Mathilda Eklund
Mathilda Eklund
7 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I’m confused. I run a business in the NL and it’s practically a tax haven. And the belastingdienst are so busy they are super agreeable on most issues if you ask nicely. And the social system is amazing. Schools and healthcare are great, lots of financial help for low income families (you can apply for everything from a laptop, bike, free entrance to theatres and events even) and as much as crime is statistically going up it’s still very safe. Housing is a huge issue indeed but that’s the only thing I can think of to complain about. And I grew up in Scandinavia so that’s my frame of reference here might be worth pointing out. Never moving back.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
7 months ago

I think it also depends on what kind of business you are in. I was renovating and renting out properties. Almost every year the rules keep changing meaning that what is perfectly fine one year is illegal the next. Under the new rent cap regime, I will be forced to sell as my overheads now greatly exceed my profits. I wasn’t making that much from it to begin with. It started as a hobby at first.
It’s very perverse. In trying to create more rentals for social housing, the Dutch government is effectively removing any motive for businesses to invest in the property market.

AC Harper
AC Harper
7 months ago

It’s not a sharp turn towards the Right, it’s a sharp turn away from the Left.
And since the Establishment has been generally Left for so long, it’s also a sign that the Establishment is losing it’s automatic support.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
7 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Agreed. At the risk of repeating myself yet again, all these commentators claiming Europe is moving to the right, while Britain is apparently moving to the left, are wrong. Voter’s everywhere are simply turning away from the incumbents.
It shouldn’t be too hard to work out why.

Daniel P
Daniel P
7 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I think this is happening all over the west.

If Trump wins next year it will be less about voters running TO HIM and more about them running AWAY FROM the far left loonies in the democrat party.

Matt M
Matt M
7 months ago

All the think-pieces and analyses in the world cannot hide the fact that the problem is mass immigration.
Which foreigners can live in your country and in what numbers is a fundamental question of any people.
Most voters answer: people who love the country, its culture and its history; who can contribute skills and hard work and sufficient taxes; who have good characters (and clean criminal records), and in numbers small enough not to overwhelm housing, public services and infrastructure.
But they have never been offered a say on this issue and now the numbers are increasing to levels that threaten to irrevocably alter the character of their nations and their own life chances.
Is it any wonder the voters are turning rightwards?

Daniel P
Daniel P
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Oh….I might toss in the whole Zero carbon thing too.

The cost of moving to EVs and renewables is killing people.

Never mind the rest of the loonie policies such as those that started the farmers revolt.

People are just done with the cost of stupid.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
7 months ago

Surely what has happened in Argentina is part of the same pattern although more extreme; years of chaos and lookalike numpties have left the beleaguered population voting for the chainsaw-wielding ‘anarcho-capitalist’.

I hate to resort to the easiest historical parallel, but the population didn’t vote for AH because of anything else other than desperation, and after Weimar incompetence and hyperinflation, who wouldn’t think the mustachioed weirdo might be worth a punt?

Not that those lurvely Lefties (which includes the Tories nowadays) ever accept that they are part of the problem.

N Satori
N Satori
7 months ago

Populist movements always underestimate the strength and persistence of the entrenched establishment forces ranged against them. They need to win hearts and minds if they are not to be casually dismissed as the voice of white reactionaries desperate to protect their privileged way of life.
A long counter-march through the institutions is needed but, unlike the revolution-hungry activists of the Left, right wing populists do not have that organisational drive. Claiming to speak for the majority of the population is all very well but the real power lies with a political/intellectual/media class who regard the ‘majority of the population’ as ignorant and in need of their moral leadership.

AC Harper
AC Harper
7 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

You may well be right, although the ‘Right’ tend not to work as ‘collectives’, so a long march back through the institutions is unlikely.
There are other ‘tools’ available to those on the Right though. If the natural hunting grounds of the Left are the institutions, the natural hunting grounds for the Right are the market place. Resistance to heat pumps and EVs is as telling as any number of Institutional Chairmen. Boycotting of businesses that disappoint wield considerable power. One-note newspapers are gradually losing out to internet independents. Numbers of TV licenses are dropping. People are ‘voting against’ High Streets with their purchases. Even Brexit could be seen as an early market de-coupling from an institutional organisation.
Perhaps a long march around the market place will work, if we have enough patience?

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
7 months ago

A ‘sharp turn to the right’ which partly involves defending a welfare compact that depends on social cohesion and mutual identification and is incompatible with mass migration. What do you mean by ‘right’? Progressives are now in favour of globalization, open borders and market liberalism (as well as Jew hating Islamicism). That all seems kind of ‘right wing’

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
7 months ago

Right-wingers in Holland have a habit of ending up dead.

Last edited 7 months ago by Anthony Roe
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
7 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

Coincidentally, left-wingers too!

Last edited 7 months ago by Steve Murray
Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
7 months ago

I look forward to seeing the results. Look at the Argentinian election this past weekend: President-elect Javier Mil, a libertarian.
While the Canadian and US elections are about two years out and one year out respectively, – a century in politics – potential conservative or right leaning opposition candidates are polling well.

Graff von Frankenheim
Graff von Frankenheim
7 months ago

Omtzigt is a hero on a single dossier where the government failed miserably, but he has no wider vision about the defining struggle between the anywheres vs the somewheres. His platform is about as WEF friendly as you can get. A true friend of the globalists. BBB is a false flag operation (like the “Trust” in revolutionary Russia) and Baudet’s Forum a club for swapping abstract ideas much like the US freedom caucus. My prediction: more VVD leftism headed by a Turkish female PM, a vast increase in emigration by intelligent wealthy people, pursued by money-grabbing fiscal authoritarians. End result: a state devoted entirely to caring for the useless and the needy, fed by endless streams of refugees, where the local population is subordinated to the imported victims. What could possibly go wrong? I won’t be waiting to find out…