March 15, 2017 | Expert Insights
Will the polarizing Geert Wilders increase his parliamentary power?
On March 15th, 13 Million people are heading to the election polls around the Netherlands to decide who will make up their next government. Current Prime Minister Mark Rutte will take on the head of the Party for Freedom, Geert Vilders in a duel that is being described as ‘critical to the future of the European Union’. The election is seen as primarily a clash between the ‘new-right’ represented by Wilders and the ‘centre-right’ represented by Rutte.
What is the election process in the Netherlands?
- There are 28 parties in total who are vying for 150 seats in the lower house of Parliament. Under the proportional representation system, any organization who acquires a percentage higher than 0.67 percent of the vote, will pass the mandated threshold and get one seat.
- With so many parties at play, the Dutch parliament is usually dominated by a ruling coalition. Two large parties usually collude. Currently, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) forms a coalition with the Labor Party (PvdA).
- They did this in order to achieve the majority of 76 seats. Once a party crosses this threshold usually with the aid of smaller parties like in the case of the General election of 2012 in which the Greens or Democracy 66 aided the coalition, they can form the government and elect a Prime Minister. Election results will be announced on the 21st and a new government will be formed on March 23rd.
Will Wilders succeed in his ascent to Parliament?
- As polling begins to come to and end, it looks unlikely that Wilders will receive enough votes on his own to gain a majority. This would be his only chance of forming a government and it is highly unlikely as no party has ever gained above 50% in voting. Since the coalition system is strong in the nation, parties can effectively choose who they wish to combine with and till now not a single party has offered any support to the PVV.
- Mainly due to many citing ideological differences with the Party which has no natural ally in the election; it is one of the first ultra-nationalist parties in the Netherlands and their rhetoric has caused massive concern for both the Netherlands and Europe.
- This leaves Wilder’s chances of gaining parliamentary power slim as he would be in the minority and not within a ruling coalition; meaning his desires of reducing immigration, banning all travelers from Muslim majority countries and also leaving the European Union would be unlikely due to him not having enough support in the Parliament. He will most likely be excluded from the political process.
The wave of populism spreading across the world has its first indicator in mainland Europe. Geert Vilders is pushing a ticket which is a combination of the Euroscepticism of BREXIT and the nationalistic anti-immigration rhetoric of President Trump, and if he succeeds in his ascent to power it might be a true barometer test of the current political scenario. Marine Le Pen in France and the Alternative for Germany party both espouse similar views. With elections to come in both countries; refugees, the European Union and globalization all sit precariously on top of people’s lists. With a victory for the PVV in any way large or small, we could see the tide begin to go the way of the ‘new-right’ for all those issues.