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Dutch Far-Right Leader Wilders Faces Setbacks In Forming Coalition Government

20.06.2024 11:57

In early elections last November, Wilders' PPV party won 37 seats with 23.5% of votes, falling to 17.7% in EU elections 6 months later His efforts to form a right wing coalition have not yet come to fruition as many of his candidates have had to withdraw or were forced to resign for various reasons.

Dutch far-right, anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is yet to successfully form a government over seven months since his Freedom Party (PVV) won elections in the country.

In the latest blow, his efforts to appoint an Israeli-born lawmaker as minister were thwarted by a security investigation.

Although his party emerged as the frontrunner in the November 2023 elections, Wilders has faced several setbacks to form a coalition government, entering a period of decline before coming to power.

The deterioration was worsened by the resignation of former Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk, tasked with forming the government, the withdrawal of a bill banning Islamic expressions, and after his party's Israeli-born member of parliament Gidi Markuszower failed to pass a security probe.

His search for alliance partners with other far-right parties following European Parliament elections earlier this month have also been unsuccessful.

As it stands, the November 2023 election was the peak in Wilders' political career, built on Islamophobia and support for Israel.

However, the chaotic past seven months have cost him support, pushing his party back to second place in the Netherlands' recent European elections.

Allies struggle with scandals

The Wilders-led PVV won 37 seats with 23.5% of votes in the early general elections on Nov. 22, 2023.

His efforts to form a right-wing coalition government have not yet come to fruition. The coalition would include the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) led by Dilan Yesilgoz, which came third with 24 seats; the New Social Contract (NSC) led by Pieter Omtzigt, which came fourth with 20 seats; and the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) led by Caroline van der Plas, which came sixth with seven seats.

Many of those who Wilders preferred to join the coalition government had to withdraw or were forced to resign for various reasons.

Plasterk, tipped to become prime minister in Wilders' right-wing government, was appointed to explore coalition options but failed. He withdrew from candidacy on May 20 after a scandal related to income from a cancer treatment patent came to light.

Wilders expressed regret over the move, saying he believed Plasterk would have made an excellent prime minister despite the fraud allegations.

PVV Senator Gom van Strien, another of Wilders' candidates, was also involved in irregularities and scandals.

Before Plasterk, van Strien was tasked with forming the government but had to resign without holding a single meeting with coalition candidate parties.

He withdrew from the position following allegations of misconduct at a subsidiary of Utrecht University Hospital, where he was a director until 2009.

The Financial Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) searched van Strien's home last month.

He became the shortest-serving official tasked with forming a government in Dutch history.

Racism, irregularities within PVV

Even before the November elections, numerous officials within Wilders' party were implicated in racism or corruption cases.

Emil Smeding, a PVV council member of Delfzijl Municipality, resigned in 2018 after commenting "Extinguish with gasoline" on a Facebook news post about a fire at the Ter Apel asylum application center, while Wilders dismissed Geza Hegedus another PVV member from Rotterdam, for racism.

Michael Heemels, a spokesperson for the PVV, was convicted in 2016 for embezzling party funds, while council member Rene Eekhuis was expelled for transferring party funds to his personal account.

Israeli-born minister candidate fails security check

The latest candidate Wilders had to withdraw was the PVV deputy Gidi Markuszower, who was proposed for migration and asylum minister.

Wilders, who has frequently visited Israel and expressed his affinity for the country, had to withdraw Markuszower's candidacy.

The Dutch media reported that the deputy failed a security investigation due to his close ties to Israel and its notorious intelligence agency, Mossad.

Wilders announced on his X account that he withdrew Markuszower's candidacy due to the content of the investigation.

The PPV leader overlooked Markuszower's failure in the security probe by allowing him to remain in the party and planned for him to serve as deputy prime minister in the government.

Known for his friendship with Israel and supporting Israeli soldiers killed in the Gaza conflicts, Wilders recently expressed his support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for whom International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan has applied for an arrest warrant.

Wilders' replacement also controversial

The second name proposed by Wilders for the migration and asylum portfolio, PVV deputy Marjolein Faber, is still being debated by other coalition parties.

Coalition parties claim her views are too extreme and not in line with democratic values, while her candidacy is expected to cause further trouble for Wilders.

Faber, known for her anti-Hamas and pro-Israel rhetoric, also attracts attention with anti-UN statements.

Wilders' party second in EP elections

Despite leading the November general elections by a wide margin, Wilders' party PVV lost significant support in the European Parliament elections held about six months later, falling to second place.

In the Dutch European elections, the Labor Party (PvdA) and Green Left (Groen Links-GL) alliance, led by former European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, came first with 21.6% of the votes.

In comparison, the PVV, which reached 23.5% in the November 2023 general elections, fell to 17.7% in the EU elections.

Although Wilders expressed satisfaction with the European election results, the outcome shows that the PVV is rapidly losing support.

Forced to soften anti-Islam rhetoric

Describing Israel as "the first line of defense of the West against Islam" and calling for the banning of the Quran in the Netherlands, Wilders ramped up his anti-Islam activities after founding the PVV.

With the start of the coalition process, he dialed down his anti-Islam rhetoric, withdrawing the bill he proposed in 2018 under the title Ban on Islamic Expressions, which included the closure of mosques and Islamic schools while banning the Quran and burqa, a garment worn by some Muslim women that fully covers the body and face.

Wilders also withdrew proposals to deny voting rights to dual citizens and to detain Daesh/ISIS members without trial for six months.

Political experts in the country suggest that he stepped back from these legislative initiatives to avoid hindering the formation of a new coalition government.

Efforts to unite far-right European Parliament parties unsuccessful

Although the EU election results show a rise of far-right parties, Wilders' attempts to form a right-wing alliance in the European Parliament have still been unsuccessful.

Despite significant gains in the European elections, internal divisions and ideological differences among far-right parties remain the biggest obstacles to an alliance. -

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