Call us

A reaction to the Dutch elections

Elizabeth Kuiper

Date: 24/11/0023
If the far-right party that won the Dutch elections on Thursday has its way, the possibility of a Nexit is no longer merely hypothetical. The EU should now get ready for more political unrest in 2024 and beyond if the elections in the Netherlands are any indication of what will happen in other member states. With populists in power in Hungary, Slovakia and Italy and support for these parties surging in Germany and France, the Netherlands is the latest country where yesterday’s elections saw an increase in support for the Dutch anti-immigration populists.

Immigration has been a big issue in the election campaign, especially since Rutte’s government fell over a bill to reduce asylum seekers. The Dutch liberal party (VVD) seems to have underestimated the fact that after 13 years of VVD Prime Minister Rutte, right-leaning voters were not looking for a party that would compromise with other mainstream parties on issues like migration and the green agenda, as they did in previous coalitions. Even though Wilders’s tone has been described as ‘milder’ his rhetoric and priorities on migration and leaving the EU remain unchanged.

Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) was founded in 2006, with anti-Islam policies at the heart of his party from the start. The party has never been in government but provided key support in 2010 to the ruling coalition led by Mark Rutte’s Dutch liberals (VVD). Two years after the start of that government, Wilders withdrew his support for the minority coalition. Future coalition partners are advised to remind themselves of that experience, and the VVD made a strategic mistake by opening the door for Wilders this time.

In terms of the seats needed to form a majority government, a coalition of Wilders party together with the liberal VVD party and the centrist New Social Contract (NSC) led by Pieter Omtzigt seems the most obvious option at the moment. Omtzigt, a former Christian-Democrat MP, has led a strong campaign focusing on the cost-of-living crisis and shares the VVD position on migration. However, forming a government will not be easy as both VVD and NSC have flagged concerns in the past about Wilders’ stance on the rule of law and the EU.

Despite the complete lack of focus on the EU in the Dutch election campaign, the congratulations for Wilders coming in last night on social media from the likes of Le Pen and Orban are telling examples of the potential implications of these elections for the EU, eight months before the June 2024 European Parliament elections.

All of this is part of a worrying trend of more fragmentation and polarisation in EU Member States. The outcome of the Polish elections in October this year brought some initial hope that this trend was reversing. Still, the Netherlands is the latest example of the perils of relying on opinion polls all over again.

We don’t know yet how long the coalition negotiations are going to last in the Netherlands, but what is clear is that the outcome will impact the Commission’s 2024-2029 mandate. A right-wing government would not only be detrimental to the position of the Netherlands in the EU, but also unwelcome news for the EU institutions in light of the June 2024 elections.

Over the years -especially after Brexit where the Dutch lost an important ally around the Council table- the Netherlands has taken a more assertive stance in the EU. How a new government will position itself on EU files, such as the EU’s support to Ukraine, climate policy and economic governance, depends very much on whether Wilders will manage to form a government.

Clearly the mobilisation of voters expressing political discontent needs to be addressed at the EU level in the years to come. The EU would need to show its ability to solve social problems and implement a fair and just climate transition. Populist parties will argue that social policies and healthcare systems need to be designed at national level and that there is no role for the EU in these areas. Their argument is cynical enough, as the cost of EU non-intervention in these areas is high, as there will be no common standards and ready-made solutions at the national level for the problems of our time, such as an ageing population, migration and climate change.

The outcome of the Dutch elections sends a signal to the EU that it cannot afford to overlook. If the EU fails to come up with preventative and strategic policymaking during its 2024-2029 mandate, divergences between member states will grow to the detriment of EU cohesion.

Elizabeth Kuiper is an Associate Director and Head of the Social Europe and Well-being programme at the European Policy Centre.

The support the European Policy Centre receives for its ongoing operations, or specifically for its publications, does not constitute an endorsement of their contents, which reflect the views of the authors only. Supporters and partners cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

The latest from the EPC, right in your inbox
Sign up for our email newsletter
14-16 rue du Trône, 1000 Brussels, Belgium | Tel.: +32 (0)2 231 03 40
EU Transparency Register No. 
89632641000 47
Privacy PolicyUse of Cookies | Contact us | © 2019, European Policy Centre

edit afsluiten