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Dutch election: Wilders' far-right PVV set to win — poll

Published November 22, 2023last updated November 23, 2023

An exit poll shows Geert Wilders' far-right PVV could receive 35 seats in parliament. Dutch voters have been picking a successor to Mark Rutte, whose coalition collapsed in July.

Head of the Freedom Party (PVV) Geert Wilders at an event in Schiphol on August 29, 2023
An exit poll shows far-right firebrand Geert Wilders leading the voteImage: Remko de Waal/ANP/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • An exit poll puts anti-Islam populist figure Geert Wilders in the lead
  • If confirmed, the result would be an 18-seat swing to his far-right PVV party
  • Other candidates vying to lead the country included the new leader of Rutte's VVD party Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius and former EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans
  • The election was called for after Rutte's coalition collapsed over disagreements over how to curb asylum seekers

This live updates article is now closed. For more developments, head to our Thursday article on the Dutch election.

Skip next section Far-right politicians in Europe congratulate Wilders after win
November 23, 2023

Far-right politicians in Europe congratulate Wilders after win

Wilders’ party’s stunning election performance drew praise from nationalist and far-right European politicians.

"The winds of change are here! Congratulations to Geert Wilders on winning the Dutch elections!" hailed Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who leads the Rassemblement National party, posted on X: "Congratulations to Geert Wilders and the PVV for their spectacular performance in the legislative elections which confirms the growing attachment to the defense of national identities."

"It is because there are people who refuse to see the national torch extinguished that the hope for change remains alive in Europe."

Italian far-right leader and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini also congratulated Wilders.

"Congratulations to our friend Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV and historic ally of the League, for this extraordinary electoral victory. A new Europe is possible."

Polls close in the Netherlands: DW's Lucia Schulten reports

However, some also expressed trepidation over the projected election outcome.

"The distress and fear are enormous. "Wilders is known for his ideas about Muslims and Moroccans. We are afraid that he will portray us as second-class citizens" said Habib El Kaddouri, head of the Dutch organization representing Dutch-Moroccans.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands, a network of grassroots environmental organizations, said it’s worried about the impact on climate action. "A Wilders government will mean four years of climate change denial, exclusion and a breakdown of the rule of law."

Frans Timmermans, leader of the Green/Labor left-wing bloc, said: "Democracy has spoken, now it's time for us to defend democracy, to defend the rule of law. We have to make a fist against exclusion, against discrimination."

Skip next section How long will a new Dutch government take to form?
November 22, 2023

How long will a new Dutch government take to form?

Once all the votes from Wednesday's election have been counted, party leaders will have to negotiate the makeup of the next governing coalition.

With multiple parties, and with far-right politician Geert Wilders' PVV in the lead, the horse-trading could take several months.

It is not clear he will be able to garner the necessary support for a broad enough coalition to form a workable government.

All the leaders of the three other top parties have said they would not serve in a PVV-led coalition.

After the 2021 election, it took more than 271 days or nine months for them to put together a four-party arrangement.

That's despite the then-new coalition being the same as the previous.

Although it is the tradition, there is no guarantee that the party that wins the most seats will end up delivering the prime minister.

Rutte will remain in a caretaker role until a new government is installed, likely in the first half of 2024.

Once the coalition makeup is agreed upon, the parties sign a coalition agreement and the new government is tasked with setting out its plans in parliament, followed by a vote of confidence.

Skip next section Geert Wilders: The Dutch Donald Trump
November 22, 2023

Geert Wilders: The Dutch Donald Trump

Often referred to as the Dutch Trump, Geert Wilders' anti-Islam, anti-immigrant and anti-EU message seems to have finally swept him to first place at the polls.

From calling Moroccans "scum" to holding competitions for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Wilders has built a career from his self-appointed mission to stop an "Islamic invasion" of the West.

He has remained defiant despite brushes with the law — he was convicted for insulting Moroccans — and death threats that have meant he has been under police protection since 2004.

Nevertheless, at the sixth time of asking, Wilders appears to have finally triumphed in the polls by toning down some of his populist rhetoric and focusing on voters' other concerns.

There are "bigger problems than fighting against the flood of asylum-seekers and immigrants", he said in one of the final election debates, adding he was prepared to put his views on Islam "in the freezer" to govern.

He said the Dutch people care more about cost-of-living issues, healthcare and security.

Yet the manifesto of his PVV (Freedom Party) retained the sharp anti-immigrant tone that has become his hallmark.

Born in 1963 in southern Venlo, close to the German border, Wilders grew up in a Catholic family with his brother and two sisters.

His mother was half-Indonesian, a fact Wilders rarely mentions.

Wilders entered politics in 1998 in the Liberal VVD party, before beginning a one-man faction in parliament and then forming the far-right PVV in 2006.

Skip next section Wilders vows to 'return country to the Dutch'
November 22, 2023

Wilders vows to 'return country to the Dutch'

Dutch far-right populist Geert Wilders vowed to "return the country to the Dutch" in a first response to his seemingly resounding victory in general elections.

"We will have to find ways to live up to the hopes of our voters, to put the Dutch back on number one," Wilders said after an exit poll showed his Freedom Party (PVV) had a wide lead on other parties.

"Now is the time for parties to look for agreements, we can't be ignored."

The PVV is projected to garner 35 of the 150 seats in parliament, which, if confirmed, would make it the first right-wing populist party ever to win parliamentary elections in the Netherlands.

Skip next section Wilders' Freedom Party powers ahead
November 22, 2023

Wilders' Freedom Party powers ahead

Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilder's Freedom Party (PVV) party is projected to win the most votes in the country's general election, an exit poll published shortly after voting closed showed Wednesday.

The poll predicted that the PVV could win 35 seats, with the left-wing Green-Labour alliance set to be placed second with 26 seats. Rutte's VVD was set to win 23 seats if the exit poll by national broadcaster NOS proves accurate.

The result puts Wilders in line to lead talks to form a new ruling coalition and possibly become the country's next prime minister.

If the PVV gets 35 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, it would be more than double the 17 he won at the last election.

Skip next section Elections mark end of Rutte era
November 22, 2023

Elections mark end of Rutte era

Mark Rutte cycles away from Paleis Huis ten Bosch after a visit to King Willem Alexander
Rutte has garnered a reputation internationally for cycling to workImage: ANP/Hollandse Hoogte/imago images

Mark Rutte announced in July that he was quitting national politics as his fourth coalition government collapsed. 

The 56-year-old is ending a 13-year tenure as Dutch prime minister.

Rutte's longevity granted him the nickname "Teflon Mark." His third Cabinet, which took office in 2017, set the record for the Dutch government to face the most motions of no-confidence in the country's history with 36 motions. 

Rutte's resignation, which sparked the snap elections, came after what he described as "insurmountable" differences within his coalition over the country's migration policies. 

It was also followed by a wave of resignations from the leaders of several parties, paving the way for an entirely new political landscape for the Netherlands.

Speculation has risen since then on whether Rutte was interested in pursuing the role of NATO secretary-general after the departure of the alliance's current chief, Jens Stoltenberg, next year

Rutte said he thought the job would be "interesting," but added that he thought the role should go to a woman.  

Skip next section Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius: Netherlands' first female leader?
November 22, 2023

Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius: Netherlands' first female leader?

Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius
Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius served as justice minister since 2022Image: Koen van Weel/ANP/picture alliance

Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius replaced outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte as head of the center-right VVD party. 

Her party has had a slight lead in opinion polls ahead of Wednesday's elections, raising speculation that she could become the first female leader of the Netherlands. 

Yesilgoz-Zegerius, 46, was born in Turkey. The former refugee child wants to cut immigration, after her predecessor quit amid differences within his coalition over asylum

She has also announced willingness to govern with Geert Wilders and his far-right PVV party, which would mark a radical departure from Rutte's policy. 

Voters can see more differences between her and Rutte, who has managed to keep his private life away from the spotlight for more than a decade in office. 

"In the few years she has been in the public eye, we know more about her private life than about Rutte in all the years he has been prime minister," De Volkskrant newspaper wrote.

Skip next section Far-right party cancels election night event
November 22, 2023

Far-right party cancels election night event

The far-right party Forum for Democracy (FvD) announced canceling an event for its members to observe the results together due to security concerns. 

FvD members will still gather at an Amsterdam bar, but without party leader Thierry Baudet

The announcement came after Baudet was attacked with a beer bottle at an election meeting in a bar on Monday. 

Police arrested the suspected perpetrator, reportedly a teenage boy. 

Skip next section Turnout so far at 40%
November 22, 2023

Turnout so far at 40%

Dutch media reported, citing figures from research agency Ipsos, that voter turnout was an estimated 40% as of 3:45 p.m. local time (1445 UTC). 

The figure is slightly lower than the 43% recorded in the 2017 election at the same time of day.

The data is incomparable to the last election, which took place in 2021 over three days instead of one and voting by mail was allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

This year, polls opened at 7:30 a.m and are set to close at 9 p.m local time.

Skip next section Printing error on Friesland ballots slows progress
November 22, 2023

Printing error on Friesland ballots slows progress

Voting was halted at one polling station in the north in the state of Friesland after a printing error on some of its ballots was noted, according to Dutch broadcaster NOS and other domestic media. 

The blank circle next to one of the candidates' names, which voters who wish to support the candidate should mark, had a thick line of black ink covering just over half of its area. 

The error was next to the name Kajsa Ollongren, the current defense minster and a candidate for the center-left D66 party.

The voting station in question, in De Waldsang in the Achtkarspelen municipality, closed temporarily as a precuation as it asked the election commission whether the papers were valid or not. 

The election commission eventually ruled that the ballots could still be used, presumably as part of the circle could still be marked by voters, and that voting could continue. 

The voting station later reported that roughly 8,000 ballot papers had the printing error. 

Skip next section Rutte, Wilders, Timmermans cast ballots
November 22, 2023

Rutte, Wilders, Timmermans cast ballots

Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte cast his vote in The Hague early Wednesday morning. 

Outgoing Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte casts his ballot for the general elections at a polling station in the Hague on November 22, 2023.
During Rutte's 13 years in power, he dealt with two German chancellors, three French presidents, three US presidents and five British prime minstersImage: Phil Nijhuis/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

Geert Wilders, of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (PVV), was another leader to vote in the city that is the seat of the Dutch government. 

The PVV and Rutte's conservative People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) were vying for the position as the largest party according to polls taken shortly before voting. 

Dutch far-right politician and leader of the PVV party, Geert Wilders votes during the Dutch parliamentary elections, in The Hague, Netherlands November 22, 2023.
Wilders has been trying to portray his party as more moderate of late, probably in the hope of courting coalition allies, with partnerships hard to come by for the PVV in the pastImage: Yves Herman/REUTERS

Meanwhile, the leading light among the center-left candidates, Frans Timmermans — who left a top EU job to return home and throw his hat in the ring — voted in Maastricht. Timmermans resides in the city near the German border.

He's leading an alliance of the ecologists GroenLinks ("Green Left") and the PvdA social democratic party, another group with at least an outside shot of emerging as the largest party. 

GroenLinks-PvdA's leader Frans Timmermans prepares to cast his ballot as he votes in a polling station during a general election, in Maastricht, on November 22, 2023.
Timmermans left a senior EU job to return to his home country and seek domestic officeImage: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images


Skip next section High-flying newcomer Pieter Omtzigt votes in Enschede
November 22, 2023

High-flying newcomer Pieter Omtzigt votes in Enschede

Pieter Omtzigt, leader of the recently formed Dutch political party New Social Contract cast his ballot at the Museumfabriek, or Museum Factory, in Enschede, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.
Pieter Omtzigt and his wife voted at an art museum in Enschede early on WednesdayImage: Peter Dejong/AP Photo/picture alliance

The emerging candidate in the election, Pieter Omtzigt, was one of several leading politicians to turn out early to pose for the cameras as they voted. 

Omtzigt only formed his party, the New Social Contract (NSC), three months ago. Yet, at one point, the new entity was polling ahead of the entire pack. 

His politics are broadly seen as center-right, but his campaign has focused on political reform and fighting corruption. His zeal for his chosen cause earned him the nickname "Saint Pieter" in some corners. 

However, Omtzigt's support appeared to dip in the run-up to the vote as he was hesitant to put himself forward as a candidate for prime minister.

At first, he argued it was not important who took the top job, then he later said he would consider leading a Cabinet made up primarily of experts rather than politicians.  

Omtzigt is a longserving member of parliament and was formerly a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) — once a powerhouse in Dutch politics but likely to suffer considerable losses this time around.

He became an independent in 2021 on leaving the CDA and founded the NCS in the run-up to the vote. 

Skip next section More than 13 million eligible voters, 150 seats up for grabs
November 22, 2023

More than 13 million eligible voters, 150 seats up for grabs

Roughly 13.3 million people aged 18 and over are eligible to vote on Wednesday. 

Their ballots will decide how all 150 seats are filled in the lower house of parliament, the House of Representatives.

If the current schedule holds, the old parliament would sit for the last time on December 5, and the new one would be ushered in on December 6. 

However, coalition talks and government formation could take much longer. Even the strongest parties were only polling at around 20% support before the vote.

After the last election in March 2021, it took nine months for Mark Rutte to establish a new coalition government. 

If a similar delay follows this time, Rutte would continue as caretaker prime minister until a viable replacement emerges. Even if the process goes more smoothly than last time, a new government is not likely to take shape until early in 2024.

Weather forecasts looked relatively pleasant for late November, meaning the elements shouldn't be too much of a barrier to voters turning out. Temperatures between around 4-8 degrees Celsius (39-46 Fahrenheit) were forecast, with the prospect of some fog and mainly dry weather, except for some possible afternoon and evening rain in the north. 

Skip next section Polls open across the Netherlands
November 22, 2023

Polls open across the Netherlands

Polls opened for the weekday election at 7:30 a.m. local time (0630 GMT/UTC) and are scheduled to close at 9 o'clock in the evening. 

A woman casts a vote as her dog sits next to her during the Dutch parliamentary elections in Maastricht, Netherlands, November 22 2023.
An early arrival in Maastricht apparently coupled voting with taking their dog for its morning walkImage: Wolfgang Rattay/REUTERS

Two voting stations, those in Zwolle and Castricum, had opened at the stroke of midnight.

National public broadcaster NOS is expected to publish its first exit poll results around the same time polls close, although it's possible that even a relatively clear picture of the results won't immediately reveal the shape of a future government.  

For more information on a wide-open race and the key contenders in an election with only one real certainty — that the Netherlands should fairly soon have a new prime minister — take a look at Ella Joyner's report from Tilburg

Skip next section Who are the candidates?
November 22, 2023

Who are the candidates?

Four politicians and their parties are competing for the European country's leadership.

Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, a former refugee who is now campaigning to limit migration, leads Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). Winning would make her the first female Dutch prime minister.

Dilan Yesilgoz on her way to Cafe Karavaan during a VVD election campaign
Yesilgoz, a former refugee, is now campaigning to decrease migrationImage: Ramon van Flymen/ANP/picture alliance

Former European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans now leads the combined Labor and Green left ticket. He has put climate change at the center of his campaign, alongside attempting to win back blue-collar workers.

Frans Timmermans delivers his speech during a debate in the hemicycle of the European parliament about renewable energy, energy performance of building and energy efficiency directives, Tuesday, Dec.13, 2022.
Timmermans represents the Labor and Green ticketImage: Jean-Francois Badias/AP/picture alliance

Geert Wilders, known internationally for his anti-Islam stances, meanwhile leads the Party for Freedom (PVV). He is known for calling for a ban on the Quran and having "fewer" Moroccans in the Netherlands. 

PVV Chief Geert Wilders attends a criminal trial at Schiphol Court.
Wilders is known for anti-Islamic statements such as calling for a ban on the QuranImage: Remko de Waal/ANP/picture alliance

Center-right Pieter Omtzigt is also part of the race. He represents his own New Social Contract (NSC) party, though polls show he is trailing behind the other three candidates.

An election billboard of New Social Contract party leader Pieter Omtzigt is seen outside the prime minister's office, rear right, near the parliament building in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023.
Omtzigt's support is believed to have waned in recent daysImage: Peter Dejong/AP Photo/picture alliance

A combination of the political system in the Netherlands, where a government typically needs 50% of the popular vote to be able to take power, and the series of similar centrist parties sharing the votes makes coalition government almost an inevitability, usually with several parties required. 

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