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International Media Perceptions of the Dutch November 2023 General Election Results

 

“Shock” Victory

  • Most international news outlets expressed shock and surprise regarding the Partij voor de Vrijheid’s (PVV) performance in the November 2023 general elections in the Netherlands.

  • The election results are presented as unprecedented for a socially liberal country, where the PVV, achieved their greatest ever number of seats in the House of Representatives since the inception of the party.

  • With such a significant shift in political attitudes in the Netherlands, the recent election results are bound to have implications for Dutch security and foreign policy

Ascent of the Right in Europe

  • However, certain news outlets, such as Al-Jazeera and Reuters have remarked that the PVV’s election results follows a broader shift to the right in Europe.

  • All across Europe, far right parties seem to be making political gains. Far-right parties have been elected in Italy and Slovakia, extended their rule in Hungary, earned a coalition role in Finland, become de facto government partners in Sweden, entered Parliament in Greece, and made striking gains in regional elections in Austria and Germany.

  • The ascent of the far right in Europe can be explained by an increase in voter dissatisfaction with mainstream pro-establishment politicians. The international media explains the PVV’s election results as a consequence of energy inflation due to souring relations with Russia over the Ukraine war. As such, Wilders used his anti-immigration political strategy to appeal to disenchanted voters affected by the cost of living crisis.

A Dutch “Donald Trump”

  • Wilders’ has often been likened with former US President, Donald Trump due to his anti-immigration policies and combed-back, dyed blond hair.

  • Parallels have been drawn with Trump’s particular brand of populism rooted in nativist and anti-establishment rhetoric. Wilders promoted politics of division similar to those of Trump, promising to put Dutch people first and opposing multiculturalism.

  • The international media has been comparing the 2016 US Presidential election and the Brexit referendum to Wilders’ ability to mobilise moderate right wing-voters towards the far right.

Bad news for the European Union

  • European news outlets, in particular, are discussing the potential impact a Wilders-led cabinet may have on the Netherlands’ foreign policy towards the EU. There is a consensus that the election results present potentially negative prospects for Dutch-EU relations. 

  • There is widespread agreement in the media that a “Nexit” referendum is unlikely to happen as Dutch public opinion is against leaving the EU after Brexit seems to have had an unfavourable outcome for the UK.

  • However, this does not mean that tensions with Brussels should not be expected. If Wilders does succeed in forming a government coalition, the EU will find itself with a much more difficult partner than it did with former Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. 

  • A seat for Wilders around the EU summit table would transform the dynamic, as he will align himself with other far-right and nationalist leaders already in post. The international press warns that such an alignment is likely to affect EU-wide policies on asylum, climate change, and aid to Ukraine.

  • Furthermore, regarding the issue of Ukraine, the PVV promised to cut “scarce military and financial resources” and use them to bolster the Netherlands’ own national security. The PVV manifesto also does not mention sanctions or other punitive measures in relation to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. With talks beginning on Ukraine’s accession to the EU, it is likely that a Wilders-led government will attempt to block Ukraine’s entry into the EU due to declared migration concerns from Eastern Europe.

Times of Uncertainty 

  • Most news outlets highlight the structural constraints of the Dutch political system. As the Netherlands has a multi-party proportional representation electoral system, no single party is able to secure an overall majority of votes in the lower house of Parliament. Normally, several parties must cooperate in order to form a coalition government. 

  • Whilst the PVV may be the largest party in the Dutch Parliament, it has only managed to secure 37 of the total 150 seats available. A government would need 76 seats to have a majority. There are significant doubts that Wilders will be able to garner enough support to achieve a government coalition after the PVV has been excluded in the past by mainstream Dutch political parties. If no government coalition can be formed, the Netherlands may have to hold another round of elections. 

  • Protests have been held in cities such as Utrecht and Amsterdam with a significant portion of the Dutch population expressing discontent with the results of the general election. The international media suggests that the Netherlands may be heading towards a period of political instability and division

Protests Amsterdam the Netherlands Political Instability
Credits: Shane Aldendorff

Fears for the Muslim Community

  • A large part of the Muslim community expressed fear and disappointment towards the election results. Due to Wilders’ anti-Islam rhetoric, many Muslims may feel uncertain about their future in the Netherlands. 

  • The international press has gathered statements from a number of Muslim organisations and politicians in the Netherlands. They are hoping that the PVV will respect the rule of law as the party has promised to work within the constitution and not pursue a ban on Islam and mosques in the Netherlands, as stipulated by the PVV’s manifesto. Many believe the PVV to be a threat to Dutch democracy and tolerance. 

  • Due to the growing support for the far right in the Netherlands, the Muslim community is concerned that they will be facing increasing discrimination and may be portrayed as “second-class citizens” by a Wilders-led government. There are significant fears for the safety of Muslims and asylum-seekers in the country. 

Conclusion

The international coverage of Geert Wilders has focused on his surprise victory and the consequences it has for communities in the Netherlands. While the coalition negotiations are ongoing, the international media has depicted the win as a dilemma for international security. Regarding European security, Wilders is thought to be more sceptical of funding for Ukraine and the possible enlargement of European Union membership. The agenda setting power of the Dutch prime minister in the European Council will likely influence the direction of EU foreign and domestic policy. With far-right leaders making gains across Europe, a crackdown on migration and stricter asylum policies are likely to be pursued.


 
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