Far-right leader Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) has won the Dutch general election, according to unofficial results, following a disagreement between the ruling partners over immigration policy in July.
The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), led by Kurdish-Dutch Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, failed to meet expectations by coming in third behind the alliance of GroenLinks (GL) and the Labour Party (PvdA).
Wilders, known for his anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic rhetoric, won 22 percent of the vote, which would give him an estimated 35 seats in parliament – a surprise, although his party had been on the offensive in recent polls.
The Labour-Green alliance won 27 seats on 15.6 percent of the vote, while the centre-right VVD will lose about 10 seats, down to 25, with 15.2 percent.
Before the elections, Yeşilgöz-Zegerius was considered to be a forerunner and had the potential to become the Netherlands’ first female prime minister.
Born in Turkey to Kurdish Alevi parents, Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, 46, took over the party’s leadership in August from Mark Rutte, who had been prime minister of the Netherlands since 2010.
Yeşilgöz-Zegerius has previously been targeted by Turkey’s pro-government media, accused of being “anti-Turkish” because of her Kurdish-Alevite identity.
In his pre-election campaign, Wilders, who is now expected to be tasked with forming a government, pledged to move away from his infamous anti-Islamic promises of the past, saying that his country “has more pressing problems than Islam at the moment”, and in his first post-election statement, he promised not to take anti-democratic or unconstitutional measures such as “banning the Quran and mosques”.
Nevertheless, the issue of migrants, which also brought about the end of the Rutte government, remains high on the priorities list of the populist leader, who said “the Dutch expect us to reduce the migration tsunami”.
One of the leaders who has not closed the door to a coalition deal with the PVV is Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, who has also promised to reduce the immigration by recognising limited capacity and prioritising “real refugees”.
However, Wilders, who has to bring together at least four parties with varying immigration policies to reach a majority, is expected to have difficulties in forming a government.
Wilders, who is also known for his harsh rhetoric against the Turkish government, issued a statement following the re-election of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last May: “I hope that all Turks in the Netherlands who voted for the Islamofascist Erdogan will pack their bags and move to Turkey”.
Yeşilgöz-Zegerius falsely declared as prime minister by Turkish media
Meanwhile, some Twitter users, journalists and media outlets in Turkey had declared Yeşilgöz-Zegerius prime minister while the polls were still open in the Netherlands. The Dutch parliament has 150 seats, and with each of the four major parties expected to win between 20 and 30 seats, and numerous smaller parties also in the race, a coalition government was certain based on the polls.
The Netherlands is used to coalition governments, with coalition negotiations typically taking around three months. The negotiations for the previous coalition government took 300 days.
This means that even if the election results were known, it could take weeks or even months to determine the new prime minister. Moreover, although Yeşilgöz-Zegerius’ party was expected to come first, it had no chance of winning an outright majority.