Where: Netherlands, Dutch interests overseas.
Who’s involved: Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), Geert Wilders, Dutch companies and citizens
On 22/11/2023, the Netherlands voted in a general election to elect a new House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). The PVV, a radical right nationalist party headed by populist Geert Wilders, won around 37 seats, ahead of GL-PvdA with 25 seats and the former largest party VVD with 24 seats. They are expected to form a right-wing government with the VVD, NSC and BBB.
In his victory speech, Geert Wilders said he will seek to govern for the whole of the Netherlands within the framework of constitutional law. However, the PVV is strongly opposed to Islam and asylum seekers. He claims that Islam represents a fascist doctrine that is contrary to the pluralistic society of the Netherlands. The PVV election manifesto mentions that the party is seeking to exit the 1951 UN refugee convention, withdraw temporary asylum permits of Syrian refugees, and also ban the Koran in addition to closing Mosques and Islamic schools.
Shortly after the result it became known that Moroccan, Turkish and muslim societies shared concerns about their future and rights in the Netherlands after the win of PVV.
The election of Geert Wilders is the latest in a radical right shift across Europe. His hardline stance against immigration and his comments have proved incendiary in the past. Geert Wilders has had multiple Fatwas – a formal, non-binding ruling issued by an Islamic institution – against him and has been living under police protection for almost 20 years. In 2018, Wilders announced a Muhammad cartoon contest which caused anger in the Islamic world and protests in Muslim-majority countries, especially in Pakistan where blasphemy is forbidden by law.
While the formation of a governing coalition is unknown, the victory of Wilders may cause (violent) reactions in Muslim-majority countries against him or Dutch interests, and therefore present a heightened terrorism risk to the Netherlands and Dutch interests abroad. Intelligence agencies have raised their threat levels against terrorism across Europe since 2019, citing the capability and intent of radical extremist groups targeting citizens. As such, there may be an elevated threat to Dutch companies from extremist groups both in the Netherlands and Dutch interests based Muslim-majority countries.
The risks of terrorism have increased elsewhere in Europe as a result of inflammatory rhetoric. Earlier this year, Quran burnings in Sweden also caused large protests in Muslim-majority countries. In Iraq, the Swedish embassy was stormed, the Swedish ambassador expelled, and a working permit of Swedish telecom company Ericsson withdrawn. In Pakistan, the Swedish embassy was closed due to security concerns likely connected to the Quran burnings. It has also led to Swedish citizens being targeted by extremist groups and lone terrorists, such as the fatal attack on two Swedish football fans in Belgium. Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson said that “Swedish interests have never been more threatened than now”.
The election victory of Geert Wilders raises concerns for Dutch interests in the Netherlands and around the world, given his openly anti-Islam rhetoric and policies against asylum-seekers. Dutch companies, citizens and broader interests could be targeted. As the outcome of the coalition negotiations is yet to be seen, definitive consequences are hard to estimate at this time. However, vigilance and a recognition of the vulnerability of Dutch interests abroad are recommended.