HomeWorldWho is Geert Wilders? Pro-Putin 'Dutch Trump' forming Netherlands' government

Who is Geert Wilders? Pro-Putin ‘Dutch Trump’ forming Netherlands’ government

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The Netherlands is getting its ‘most right-wing’ government ever, after four parties finally agreed to govern six months on from the election.

Geert Wilders’ radical right Party for Freedom (PVV) swept to victory in November’s general election, claiming nearly a quarter of the vote.

He more than doubled his party’s vote with a promise to ban mosques and the Quran, limit immigration and stop asylum seekers altogether.

But it’s taken half a year for it to reach a coalition agreement with three other right-of-centre parties – the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the New Social Contract (NSC), and the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB).

Celebrating the news on X today, 60-year-old Wilders wrote: ‘The sun will shine again in the Netherlands.’

Despite convincing other parties to work with him after years of being locked out of power, the blond firebrand with a soft spot for authoritarians won’t be its Prime Minister.

Instead Wilders will continue to show disruptive behaviour and ‘tweet a little bit in the line of Trump’ from outside government, according to Stijn van Kessel, an associate professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London.



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Even from the sidelines, Wilders – who has looked up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban – may find himself more powerful than ever.

Who is Geert Wilders?

Anti-Islam populist has finally won power, even though he won’t be Prime Minister himself (Picture: Koen van Weel/EPA)

Geert Wilders has always wanted to be prime minister, and he believed it would one day happen.

Something of a giant at nearly 6’5”, he has been an imposing presence in Dutch politics for more than 20 years.

He was first elected to parliament in 1998 as a member of his new coalition partner, the VVD.

But he parted ways in 2004 over his opposition to the possibility of Turkey joining the European Union.

Not one to shrink into the shadows, Wilders launched his own party – the PVV – with a platform focused on opposition to immigration.

Unlike other right-wing parties that have opposed LGBTQ+ rights, Wilders instead framed Muslim immigration in particular as a threat to these liberal Dutch values.

But he himself is no liberal.

Van Kessel told Metro.co.uk: ‘He sees Islam as a violent ideology, he wants to ban mosques and also ban the Quran.

‘These are clearly illiberal policies. He treats a group of citizens as basically non-citizens, who are not entitled to the same rights as the so-called native population.’

He has called Islam ‘an ideology of a retarded culture’, and was convicted of insulting Moroccans.

Wilders also has an affinity for the likes of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who has seized control of the country’s media and spread antisemitic conspiracy theories.

He praised Wilders election victory, saying: ‘The winds of change are here.’

Wilders has also displayed a fondness for dictator Vladimir Putin, who he has called an ‘ally in the fight against terrorism and mass immigration from Africa’.

What is Geert Wilders’ view on Vladimir Putin, Russia and Ukraine?

Wilders has been known as one of the European politicians most sympathetic to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin (Picture: AFP/GETTY/EPA)

Geert Wilders is by no means the most pro-Putin politician in the Netherlands.

His radical right rivals, Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy, have called for the Netherlands to withdraw from NATO, which it blames for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Coincidentally, Baudet has reportedly received funding from, as he describes them, ‘a Russian who works for Putin’, Politico reported.

Although nowhere near Baudet in that sense, Wilders has bucked the trend in terms of Dutch and European leaders’ stances towards Russia.

In 2014, Russian-controlled forces shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, most of them Dutch.

The deaths of nearly 200 Dutch citizens when Russian-backed forces shot down a passenger plane flying from Amsterdam didn’t stop Wilders buddying up with Putin (Picture: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)

At the time, Wilders’ party demanded that the perpetrators be punished.

But he seemed to forget who those perpetrators were when he visited Moscow just four years later, drawing criticism from the families of Dutch victims.

Having already criticised ‘hysterical Russophobia’ in Europe, Wilders went on to describe Putin as a ‘true patriot’ who is ‘more favourable’ than EU leaders.

Although Wilders has distanced himself from Putin since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he has opposed sanctions on Russia and has shown little desire to support Ukraine.

What does Geert Wilders rise mean for Ukraine?

Civilians are fleeing northeastern Ukraine amid reports of Russian soldiers executing Ukrainians as they push towards Kharkiv, taking advantage of Western nations being slow to deliver weapons (Picture: Narciso Contreras/Anadolu via Getty Images)

In a statement today, the PVV reaffirmed it is ‘politically, militarily, financially, and morally against Russian aggression’.

Despite the PVV previously opposing NATO, the new coalition of parties has said ‘it ‘political and military cooperation with NATO is paramount for our international security’.

Van Kessel said: ‘Wilders has moderated his position, he has become less pro-Russia and he explicitly calls Russia the aggressor.’

As Cas Mudde, a Dutch expert on far-right politics, posted on X: ‘Wilders has learned that support for Ukraine has become the new litmus test for “acceptability” within EU.

‘Agree to that and you have more space to weaken liberal democracy at home.’

But on the day Russian forces poured over the borders in a bid to capture all of Ukraine, Wilders posted on X: ‘Do not let Dutch households pay the price for a war that is not ours.’

Since then, he has continued to oppose military aid for Ukraine and has opposed retaliatory sanctions on Russia.

It seems unlikely Wilders will be as keen as the previous prime minister, Mark Rutte, to shop F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

And the possibility of a far-right surge in the European Parliament elections next month may cast doubt on continue continent-wide support for Ukraine’s military.

Why is the new Dutch government so right-wing?

Wilders, Yeşilgöz, van der Plas and Omtzigt have formed the most right-wing government the Netherlands has ever seen (Picture: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock)

The Netherlands is known as a bastion of liberal values.

Cannabis can be bought in coffee shops, it was the first in the world to allow same-sex marriage, and assisted suicide has been legal since 2002.

Its last government was a broad coalition of the conservative-liberal VVD, the liberal D66, along with two Christian democratic parties, ChristenUnie and the CDA.

So it may seem surprising that it now has one of the most right-wing governments in Europe. But this has been a long time coming.

Wind back to October 2019 and you might understand the divisions in society that have led to this point.

It was a dramatic month of protests.

Extinction Rebellion blockaded one of Amsterdam’s main roads for a day.

Farmers caused 1,000km of traffic jams as they flooded cities with tractors, even using one to storm through the doors of a government building as they protested emissions regulations.

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Just a month before, the Amsterdam Museum sparked outrage when it dropped the ‘Golden Age’ brand from its 17th century exhibits in recognition of the horrors of imperialism.

Later that year, major cities banned black face on people dressed as Black Pete, the supposedly soot-covered companion of Saint Nicholas, amid accusations of racism.

Meanwhile, opposition to immigration was rising and, with it, support for an array of far-right parties.

Clear divisions were being drawn in the politics of a country where compromise and consensus is the norm.

A new party – the BBB – was formed as the political voice of Dutch farmers.

Tractors could be seen for miles as they flooded into Dutch cities during 2019 protests (Picture: Robin van Lonkhuijsen/ANP/AFP via Getty)

Populist politicians like Wilders jumped on that bandwagon, forming something of an alliance against the liberal and left-wing politics of D66, Labour and the Greens.

Van Kessel said: ‘The farmer protests are now part of a broader cultural line of conflict, which integrated into the cultural conservative camp.

‘That camp also includes those who are anti-immigration, wary of social change, against multiculturalism, wanting to protect traditional values.

‘This issue of farmers’ interests versus environmental measures has now also been adopted more explicitly by the far-right.

‘And the far-right is traditionally quite against environmental measures imposed from Brussels, and skeptical about climate change.’

The departure of Mark Rutte, the VVD’s bike-riding prime minister who survived numerous controversies in his 14 years of power, cleared a path for Wilders.

Rutte had refused to work with Wilders for most of that time, ever since Wilders pulled the plug on a brief alliance in 2012.

But Rutte’s successor as party leader, Dilan Yeşilgöz, has been far less icy.

During the election campaign, Yeşilgöz, the daughter of Turkish refugees, did not rule out working with Wilders, but she suggested the VVD would only support a centre-right government from the sidelines.

This was perhaps a pivotal moment after years of ‘basically legitimizing the policies of the far-right’ by adopting their stance on immigration.

It signalled to voters that Wilders’ party was a viable contender for government for the first time ever.

Support subsequently rose from just over 10% to 24% on election day. Opinion polls since the election suggest nearly a third of voters would now back the PVV.

It still took some months of negotiations to bridge divides between the four parties and their various interests.

The farmer protests of 2019 were a pivotal moment in delivering the most right-wing government in Dutch history (Picture: Koen van Weel/ANP/AFP via Getty)

Wilders has had to tone down his opposition to Muslims and park his desire to ban their religious buildings and holy book, in order to appease his coalition partners, not least the more centrist leader of the NSC, Pieter Omtzigt.

Van Kessel said: ‘Even though Omtzigt and the VVD are also keen to limit immigration, this clearly went too far.

‘So what Omtzigt was trying to establish was some guarantees that the rule of law would be protected under this new government.’

Two of the party leaders – Wilders and the BBB’s Caroline van der Plas – certainly looked happier about the agreement than Omtzigt or Yeşilgöz.

But ‘there were few options’, according to van Kessel, who said the only genuine alternative – a coalition including the liberals and the Labour-Green Alliance – would be too unpopular.

‘This is the electoral reality, the voters have given them this outcome.’

Who will actually lead the government as prime minister is yet to be determined.

It may be a former Labour politician who has drifted to the right since his time in government.

But it definitely will not be Wilders, who proves too controversial even for his own coalition partners.

Van Kessel said: ‘He would be a very unlikely figure to have as prime minister given his firebrand character.

‘He continues to tweet a little bit in the line of Trump. His public behaviour is still as radical as it used to be.

‘Maybe it suits him well to remain in parliament and not be under pressure to tone down his rhetoric whilst still seeing his desired policies implemented.’

What will the new Dutch government do?

Dutch politics aren’t prone to drastic change, but will this government be different, and will it last? (Picture: Koen van Weel/EPA/ANP)

‘A lot is going to change in the Netherlands’, Wilders declared in a press conference today, announcing what he called ‘the strictest asylum policy ever’.

That’s very much the focus of the new coalition, which led its 26-page programme for government with a paragraph on cracking down on immigration.

Wilders said: ‘There will be an asylum crisis law. We will withdraw the dispersal law. There will be border controls, mobile and otherwise.’

He also promised not to allow asylum seekers – most of whom come from war-torn Syria – to stay in the Netherlands indefinitely.

In line with his support for welfare benefits for the ‘deserving Dutch’, he pledged to prioritise social housing for citizens over refugees and immigrants.

Wilders added: ‘There will be a tougher approach to terror, including towards street terror. And we work towards deporting criminal refugees.’

‘But there is much more to this agreement than asylum policy’, he continued.

He promised to more than half the healthcare insurance deductible, to increase tax relief for ‘the hard-working Dutchman’, to lower energy tax, and invest in healthcare, housing, fishing and farming.

Wilders, who may rule from the sidelines but never the shadows, concluded: ‘The Netherlands will be ours again.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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