In a significant shift in the Dutch political landscape, conservative leader Geert Wilders led his Party for Freedom (PVV) to a major victory in the 2023 General Election.
The first exit polls suggest that PVV is set to secure 35 of the 150 seats in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch Parliament, though the final count could vary slightly, Dutch media reported.
Celebrating the victory in Scheveningen, Wilders jubilantly proclaimed to his supporters, “35 seats! The biggest party in the Netherlands!” He urged other parties to join hands with PVV to chart a new course, emphasizing that ignoring his party’s mandate would be undemocratic and unacceptable to the voters.
Wilders, who has previously faced exclusion from coalition talks, expressed readiness to govern and to serve as a leader for all Dutch citizens, committing to finding solutions within the legal and constitutional framework. However, forming a coalition government may prove challenging for PVV, as it requires the support of at least two or more parties to secure a parliamentary majority.
The PVV’s agenda includes stricter immigration controls and policies aimed at enhancing healthcare and security. To form a dominant majority, Wilders may need to ally with Pieter Omtzigt’s newly established NSC, which claimed 20 seats, and other moderate and right-wing parties.
BBB leader Caroline van der Plas expressed openness to negotiations, acknowledging the significant support for PVV. Wilders has indicated a willingness to moderate his anti-Islam stance to facilitate governance, a move that has seen his party surge in polls but has also drawn skepticism from other political leaders.
NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt, who previously dismissed the possibility of collaborating with Wilders, hinted at a more conciliatory approach, expressing willingness to participate in the cabinet formation process. He emphasized the importance of respecting fundamental rights, including freedom of religion, as a basis for any government cooperation.
“We are available to translate this trust into action from tomorrow. We are going to take responsibility. We have plans and we can implement them. But it will not be easy,” Omtzigt said.
VVD leader Dilan Yeşilgöz remained skeptical of Wilders’ changed tone and ruled out participating in a cabinet with him as prime minister. This stance echoes the sentiment of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who regretted forming a minority cabinet with PVV support in the past.
Left-wing leader Frans Timmermans of GroenLinks-PvdA maintained a firm stance against forming a coalition with PVV, citing Wilders’ long history of divisive politics.