The victory of the Freedom Party shocks the European scenario. While traditional Christian parties suffer losses, “it is no secret that some believers love Wilders”, says journalist Evert Van Vlastuin.
Voters in the Dutch election have decided a clear winner, a both well-known featred political figure: Geert Wilders. The founder of the far-right nationalist Freedom Party (PVV) has shaken up the political chessboard by winning 37 seats.
His result (2.3 million votes and 20 more members in parliament) puts an end to 13 years of rule in The Netherlands by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s traditional right-wing party, the VVD.
Wilders and his ideas are not new. As the most experienced member of the Dutch parliament, his discourse has been marked for years by his anti-Islam positions, and a particularily harsh approach to the European Union and to immigration, speaking once and again against the “tsunami of asylum seekers and migrants”. He has clearly sided with Israel in the Gaza war.
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) November 23, 2023
After winning with a resounding victory, Wilders has said he will govern “for everyone” but emphasised that “the priority will be the Dutch”, because “the people want to take back their nation”.
For Evert Van Vlastuin, a Dutch journalist, Geert Wilders is “the prototype of the fully secularised politician (…) Nothing is sacred to him. He is the opposite of a statesman”.
Even so, “it is no secret that some Christians love Wilders because of his radical anti-Islam position”, he told Evangelical Focus the day after the election (see interview below).
In a highly fragmented parliament, the Freedom Party will need the support of at least two other groups, if not more. The left, which came second, has already ruled it out completely. Conservative parties also have serious doubts about entering a Wilders-led cabinet.
Evert Van Vlastuin, chief-editor of CNE.news, a Christian news platform for continental Europe based in The Netherlands, shared his analysis with Evangelical Focus the day after the election.
[photo_footer] Evert Van Vlastuin. / Photo: Photo RD, Anton Dommerholt
Question. International media speak of Wilders' victory as a 'shock'. Were there indications in the Netherlands these days that he could win?
Answer. This morning, I met our 13-year-old daughter at the breakfast table. “And what happened last night”, she asked.
“Geert Wilders has become the largest”, I summarised. She was astonished. “Does that mean that things will change?” “Might be, yes”, I answered carefully. “Change, I mean”, she replied, “change, so that we will notice that?”
It’s fair to say that my daughter was a bit shocked. Until now, politics was something far away; not something she noticed in her own life. That might change from now.
It was expected that Wilders’ PVV would grow. But that he would have such a huge lead on the second party (the Social-Democrats & Greens) was unexpected.
It has happened before that the PVV was underestimated in polls. Possibly because these voters are hard to reach for pollsters, possibly also because voters are also embarrassed to say they are going to vote PVV.
Q. How would you describe Wilders? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
A. Wilders is the prototype of the fully secularised politician. He was born in a cultural Catholicism. But his breakthrough came after the murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam by a radical Muslim, in November 2004. From that day on, Wilders incessantly agitates against Islam as a danger to the West.
He is the personification of gross disrespect in politics. Nothing is sacred to him. He is the opposite of a statesman.
But still, he is a professional. In the 19 years after Van Gogh’s murder, you can observe that Wilders is a very flexible politician. In this campaign, he has presented himself as the moderate man who is willing to negotiate about his program.
Q. What will happen next? Does he have a chance to form a government?
A. The next step after the elections is the orientation for a coalition. In the present system, the largest party will appoint an explorer to find potential partners. Until now, all parties have always excluded Wilders. The Liberal VVD has made an exception for that once in this campaign.
At the moment, we know only that coalition making will become very difficult. My guess is, there will be no new government before June 2024.
Q. How have Christians voted? How do they see such a controversial figure as Wilders?
A. It is no secret that some Christians love Wilders because of his radical anti-Islam position and his warnings against an “asylum seekers’ tsunami”. They think the traditional Christian parties are far too soft and that it is time for real masculinity.
Wilders has also been outspoken against the gender transition bill. That is still under consideration in the Lower House; yesterday’s election might be the end of that.
I assume, most active Christians voted for the three Christian parties. Some of the former CDA and CU voters stepped over the Nieuw Sociaal Contract (NSC) lead by Pieter Omtzigt; a former CDA member. His program is not outspoken Christian-Democratic, but still recognisable for some Christians.
[title] Christian parties suffer “painful loss”
Wilders, a former Roman Catholic who know defines himself as an agnostic, still has said in the past that Christians are his “allies”.
Historically a Protestant country, the Netherlands has as many as three Christian political parties. The largest, CDA, formed by both Protestants and Roman Catholics, lost most of its representation (from 15 to 5 seats). “That is less than 10 per cent of the 54 seats CDA had when I was a boy in the late 80s”, says journalist Van Vlastuin.
The moderate Protestants of Christen Unie, fell from 5 to 3 parliamentarians, after having a key role in making the previous coalition government fall. Meanwhile, the pietistic-Calvinist SGP kept the 3 seats it had.
After the 2023 election, none of them seem to be in a position to enter the new government.