The Dutch election revealed a notable trend: centrist politicians increasingly lean toward far-right ideologies amidst their surge. Ironically, this shift often boosts their more extreme opponents, amplifying their impact.
Geert Wilders, a prominent figure in the far-right, stunned the European political landscape by leading his Freedom Party (PVV) to a resounding victory in the Netherlands’ general elections on November 22nd, 2023. Securing 37 out of 150 parliamentary seats surpassed all earlier predictions.
The aftermath of this election triggers concerns in Brussels due to Wilders’ stance, advocating for a ‘Nexit’ from the European Union. Additionally, in Ukraine, his pledge to halt military aid raises further alarm.
The Netherlands, as the EU’s fifth-largest economy, wields significant policymaking influence. Moreover, it holds a pivotal role as a U.S. ally in trade and technology.
Who is Geert Wilders?
The 60-year-old Wilders has been a fixture in Dutch politics for decades. Initially part of former Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal group, he later branched out as an independent lawmaker. Eventually, he established the anti-migrant Freedom Party, commonly referred to as the PVV in Dutch.
What are Wilders’s primary stances?
Netherlands’ Wilders has historically centered his agenda around anti-Islam and anti-EU rhetoric. When he assumed the role of the People’s Party spokesperson in 2002, these views were deemed too extreme by Dutch public opinion, leading to his dismissal from the position.
Anti-Muslim sentiments escalated in the Netherlands following the 2004 killing of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, whose film “Submission” depicted Islam as promoting violence against women. The attacker, Mohammed Bouyeri, was a second-generation Dutch Moroccan. In 2006, Wilders formed a new party, and renamed it the Party for Freedom (VVD).
The latest victory came in the socially liberal Netherlands, where hard-right icon Geert Wilders and his anti-European Union, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration Party for Freedom landed a shocking first place finish this week in parliamentary elections.
“Everywhere in Europe we see the same right-wing wind blowing,” Tom Van Grieken, a Belgian hard-right populist, said in response to Wilders’s win.
However, forming a government might prove challenging for Wilders as his party lacks a majority, leading to anticipated intricate negotiations lasting weeks or even months. Nevertheless, the robust performance by the “Dutch Donald Trump,” known for advocating Quran bans and cessation of asylum seeker acceptance, sends a strong cautionary signal to mainstream Europe.
Wilders’s success, influenced partially by domestic factors, has added to the momentum of the global far-right movement, coming on the heels of Javier Milei’s recent presidential victory in Argentina.
The Netherlands “has been utterly weakened due the ongoing sanctuary tsunami and mass immigration,” his party says in its election manifesto.
Argentina’s Political Landscape Amidst Economic Turmoil
In a historic election, the self-styled “liberal libertarian” and opposition MP Javier Milei became the new president of Argentina after capturing 55.7 percent of the vote and winning 21 of the country’s 24 provinces. His win marks a significant shift, particularly as the centre-left Union for the Homeland coalition, gathering 44.3 percent of the vote. Voter turnout remained stable at 76.3 percent, but the election recorded an unprecedented 1.55 percent of blank ballots, altering Argentina’s political landscape.
Milei’s surge from 30 percent to 55.7 percent in the election reflects a substantial gain. This rise is linked to public dissatisfaction with the right-wing Republican Proposal (PRO) party, along with the support from another unsuccessful candidate, Patricia Bullrich, who garnered 23.85 percent in the initial round.
Aside from the crisis, the recent political agenda was shaped by the 2020 legalization of abortion, which sparked massive mobilizations by the feminist movement countered by staunch conservative opposition.
It is true that the far right does not own a monopoly on the neoliberal agenda. However, at least in Latin America, the far right that has radicalized and booked the political leadership over this economic agenda.
Victory for the Far Right Everywhere
Javier Milei’s influence, particularly among the younger demographic, capitalizes on new communication platforms, notably TikTok. Engaged in a network of far-right movements, he employs social media in a sophisticated manner, refining strategies initially seen during the 2016 US elections amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Milei’s affiliations extend globally, notably with Spain’s far-right party, Vox, illustrating his ties to the broader far-right movement. His appeal lies in his ability to articulate seemingly clear economic solutions, rallying a conservative sentiment that has persisted in Argentina but now takes on a different vigor amid current global dynamics.
Milei’s win signals a noteworthy shift in Latin American political dynamics, coinciding with billionaire Daniel Noboa’s victory in Ecuador and the looming potential of Trump’s reelection, which could reshape regional disputes. To Brazil’s far right, Milei’s victory reflects a resurgence of a similar ideological agenda, a counterpart to their defeat in the 2022 elections.
For Argentines, the impending struggles and confrontations following Milei’s election could mark the most significant since the end of the dictatorship.
Where else has far right surged in Europe?
The far-right movement in Europe has seen sporadic growth over several decades. While it faced challenges in asserting its relevance during the pandemic, it has now gained significant momentum. This resurgence is being propelled by soaring inflation, repercussions from the conflict in Ukraine, a notable increase in migration, mounting inequality, and a widespread perception of the traditional political establishment’s shortcomings.
For over a decade, Fidesz and the Law and Justice Party have wielded power in Hungary and Poland, employing tactics that hinder free speech and manipulate the judiciary.
Now, these strategies are causing trouble as their grip on power weakens. Their mutual support against EU countermeasures is starting to falter.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) has steadily gained ground since 2014, making inroads in state legislatures and securing a notable 12.6% in the federal parliament in 2017. Their recent success in Hesse, capturing 18.4% of the vote in a former West German stronghold, solidifies their emergence as a significant all-German party, as co-founder Alice Weidel proudly proclaimed.
Similar surges have been witnessed elsewhere. In Finland, the True Finns claimed 17.7% of the vote in 2015 and held coalition power for two years. UKIP’s influence led to the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK.
Across Europe, right-wing parties have made substantial gains. The Freedom Party of Austria, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France, Italy’s Northern League, and Giorgia Meloni’s coalition in Italy have all seen remarkable electoral successes, highlighting the widening sway of right-wing ideologies.
However, amidst this trend, signs of opposition to authoritarianism are emerging. In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice Party faced a setback in recent elections, failing to secure a majority. The united opposition is poised to challenge its dominance. These developments underscore a shifting political landscape, with the rise of right-wing parties facing both ascent and challenge across Europe.