Anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders wins most votes, Dutch exit poll predicts

22 November 2023, 21:24

Netherlands Elections
Netherlands Elections. Picture: PA

Mr Wilders’ Party for Freedom won 35 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, according to the forecast.

Far-right, anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders won the most votes in the Dutch election with a landslide margin, according to an exit poll, putting him in line to lead talks to form a new ruling coalition and possibly become the country’s prime minister.

The exit poll published by the national broadcaster NOS said Mr Wilders’ Party for Freedom won 35 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, more than double the 17 he won at the last election.

If confirmed when votes are counted, a Wilders victory would send a seismic shock through European politics.

His election programme calls for a referendum on the Netherlands leaving the European Union, a total halt to accepting asylum-seekers and migrant pushbacks at the Dutch borders.

Netherlands Election
Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom, known as PVV (Mike Corder/AP)

It also advocates the “de-Islamisation” of the Netherlands.

But the politician, who has in the past been labelled a Dutch version of Donald Trump, first would have to form a coalition government before he can take the reins of power.

“I had to pinch my arm,” he said after the forecast.

“Voters said ‘we are sick of it. Sick to our stomachs’,” a jubilant Mr Wilders said, adding he was now on a mission to end the “asylum tsunami” referring to the migration issue that came to dominate the campaign.

He also called on other parties to constructively engage in coalition talks.

The closest party to Mr Wilders’ Party for Freedom was an alliance of the centre-left Labour Party and Green Left, which was forecast to win 26 seats.

That will be tough as mainstream parties are reluctant to join forces with him and his Party for Freedom.

The exit poll was published as voting ended in the general election.

It can have a margin of error of up to three seats, but generally is accurate within one or two seats, Ipsos said.

Netherlands Election
Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (Patrick Post/AP)

The election was called after the fourth and final coalition of outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte resigned in July after failing to agree to measures to rein in migration.

Mr Rutte was replaced by Dilan Yeşilgoz-Zegerius, a former refugee from Turkey who could have become the country’s first female prime minister had her party won the most votes.

Instead, it was forecast to lose 11 seats to end up with 23.

The election had been called a neck-and-neck race, but in the end Wilders handily beat all opponents.

The result is the latest in a series of elections that is altering the European political landscape.

By Press Association

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