The Netherlands woke up Thursday to an unexpected victory for Dutch anti-EU far-right populist Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) – a forecast win that has triggered shockwaves in the Netherlands and could have reverberations across Europe and beyond.
The provisional outcome based on 98% of the votes counted showed the PVV had won 37 seats and will be the largest party in the House of Representatives, according to public broadcaster NOS.
In second place is the joint Labour/Green ticket with 25 seats, followed by the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and the Dutch center-right NSC party with 20 seats, according to NOS.
Wilders and his supporters applauded the results in a video he posted on social media Wednesday night.
He is now poised to start working on forming a coalition but the process could be challenging and take months.
Voter research showed that migration and asylum were important issues for voters and Wilders’ party has largely benefited from that, according to NOS.
Wilders has vowed that the Netherlands “will be returned to the Dutch” and “the asylum tsunami and migration will be curbed.”
He also maintains the Netherlands should stop providing arms to Ukraine, because it needs them to protect itself.
After the exit poll results Wednesday night, Wilders said he would not push for anti-Islam measures, such as a Quran ban or the closure of Islamic schools, according to NOS.
He said he wanted to adhere to the constitution and is already working towards forming a coalition, according to NOS.
According to Wilders, parties must now “jump over their own shadows” and try to find common ground, according to NOS. “It cannot be the case that Frans Timmermans will take charge due to a failed formation, that should not happen,” he said referring to the Labour/Green party leader.
Key French politicians expressed their views on the results. “This is the consequence of all the worries and fears that have been surfacing in Europe since the last several years,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told French TV Franceinfo Thursday.
“The fear over the war in Ukraine, the fear over the economic fall of Europe compared to China and the US and fear over the influx of migrants,” Le Maire added.
The Dutch party that is most aligned with French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party is D66, which saw its seat counts collapse on Wednesday from 24 to only nine, based on the latest numbers, according to NOS.
Renaissance and D66 belong to the same political group in the European Parliament.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen expressed her joy at the results Wednesday night, in a post on social media. Her party is an ally of PVV and Wilders.
“Congratulations to Geert Wilders and the PVV for their spectacular performance in the parliamentary elections, which confirms the growing attachment to the defense of national identities,” Le Pen said.
“It is because there are people who refuse to see the national torch extinguished, that hope for change remains strong in Europe,” she added.
Le Maire was quick to stress that the Netherlands is not the same as France, in his interview with Franceinfo.
“The only lesson [for us] is that we need to continue to get results for the French people,” he said.
Rosanne Roobeck contributed to this report.