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Geert Wilders' Triumph Is A Hammer Blow to the EU



On the 22nd of November, the Netherlands elected 150 members of their House of Representatives following the collapse of Mark Rutte's Government and his subsequent retirement.


To the horror of everyone in Brussels, the Party for Freedom (PVV), led by the anti-Islam and Eurosceptic Geert Wilders, won 37 seats, becoming the majority party. Indeed, this is a shocking result because, as per politico and its "poll of polls", between the 17th of November and the election on the 22nd, the PVV sky-rocketed from behind Rutte's Party, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) who were level on 17%, and rose to 24% on election night.


In fact, in October, the PVV wasn't even in the running, with the VVD's main challenger being Pieter Omzgit's New Social Contract party (NSC). Thus, as mentioned, this is a shocking success and a sucker punch to the EU.


Now, let's meet the party-pooper.



Who is Geert Wilders?


By no means unknown in the Netherlands, Wilders has held a parliamentary seat since 1998 and founded the PVV in 2006.


He has played a crucial part in coalition talks over the years, especially since the PVV's founding. In 2012, Wilders pulled our PVV support for Rutte's VVD Government, resulting in a distanced approach by the long-time and now caretaker PM, Mark Rutte.


His beliefs are very typical of the populist sparks we have seen across Europe; in his manifesto, he called for a ban on Qurans and mosques and a referendum on EU membership. It appears that the awful humanitarian crisis that is arising in the conflict between Israel and Palestine has had an effect, perhaps contributing to the sudden surge in the polls for the viciously anti-Islam Wilders. He has said that he will stop the "Islamisation of the Netherlands" and compared the Quran to Mein Kampf whilst seeking to have the book banned in the country. 


Apart from the vicious conflict in the Middle East, sympathy for Wilder's stances may stem from the mismanaged crisis of illegal migration in Europe. Further, Wilders, like most populist leaders in Europe, has taken direct aim at the EU. As pointed out, he has committed to a referendum on EU membership, meaning that a former safe haven for Brussels, once led by Mark Rutte, has turned to the "dark side".


Now, the focus is on building a coalition to govern.



The Art of Coalition-Building (The Dutch Edition)


Unlike her predecessor, the VVD's new leader, Dilan Yeşilgöz, has said that she is prepared to open coalition talks with the PVV. This marks a shift away from Rutte's leadership and, perhaps, an opportunity to establish a coalition in good faith and on a solid foundation, driving away from the unstable coalitions of recent years. However, Yeşilgöz has also stated that she will not go into coalition with Wilders as Prime Minister.


Also, there has been talk of Pieter Omzigt's NSC also playing a part in coalition talks, suggesting that a grand coalition is a possibility. This leaves the centre-left Green-Labour Alliance, led by Franz Timmermans, out of the equation - as the PVV, VVD and the NSC all stand on the centre-right - with similar concerns for immigration. 


Furthermore, when looking towards the smaller parties, the farmer citizen movement "BBB", would certainly be of interest to Wilders as he hunts for the elusive 76 seats needed for a majority. The BBB came to light following their successes in the provincial elections earlier in the year during the Dutch farmers' protest. The Ukrainian grain crisis, which I covered in a previous article, was a golden opportunity to seize votes in the countryside and stir discontent towards the EU, who is busy pointing fingers instead of working to establish ad hoc routes for grain to be shipped out of Europe to Ukraine's pre-war trading partners.


This brings us to the "big picture" question.



What does Wilders' success mean for the European Union?


The verdict in the Netherlands last month speaks volumes about the discontent across Europe towards the EU. The pursuit of an ever closer union is taking the union to its breaking point. Incompetence when dealing with crisis, referring first and foremost to the ongoing migration crisis (2015-), its naivety in allowing Vladimir Putin to gain a chokehold on European energy through the Nord Stream pipeline, the mishandling of the Ukrainian grain crisis - and above all, the vindictiveness of its leadership towards populism; Is it not clear that the increasing political body of the European Union, especially following the Lisbon Treaty, has been to the detriment of the European project? 


The Netherlands are a founding member of the European Project and one of the signatories of the Treaty of Rome (1957). Does its turn to populism not say something? 


Wilders in the Netherlands, Meloni in Italy, Le Pen in France, and the AfD in Germany - Populist leaders and parties are growing in popularity within the central powers of the EU. 


Now is the time for reflection: reign in the political trial and error, realign the European Union with its economic foundation or face the dismemberment of the European Union. 


Image: Rueters/via The New Statesman



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