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Can far-right Wilders consolidate his power in the Netherlands?

Dec 04, 2023

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In a surprising turn of events on Nov. 22, the anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders emerged victorious in the Netherlands’ election. The win for the far-right politician opens the door to a potential new coalition that many fear could disrupt the EU. But a Wilders-led government is not a sure thing, and he will likely have to tone down some of his more hardline ideas.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan sheds light on the workings of the Dutch political system and highlights the challenges an inexperienced Wilders may encounter in forming a stable government.

Excerpted from Peter’s Dec. 4 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

The Netherlands has recently undergone an election of its own, so let’s look at the incoming coalition and how it will impact Dutch politics.

In the Netherlands, voters cast their ballots for a party rather than individuals, giving them a multi-party system with countless coalition possibilities. Geert Wilders will likely lead the incoming coalition, but bringing together at least four parties is no easy task. All that to say, Wilders will have to compromise on some of his more extreme ideas if he wants to build this coalition with any semblance of speed.

The Netherlands has long operated as a broker for Europe. The previous PM, Mark Rutte, played that role perfectly, but I’m not as optimistic about Wilders. The longer it takes to form his coalition, the more the plot will thicken…

Morning, everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from a chilly in New York City in Central Park. We’ve had a fresh election in the Netherlands, which looks like it’s going to generate a couple of interesting effects. So I thought it was worth talking about it. Specifically, the outgoing government of Margaretha, is now giving way to an incoming coalition that will be led most likely by guy by the name of Geert Wilders, there’s who’s got frizzy hair, he’s oftentimes called the Dutch Trump, because of his views on immigration and other countries in general, and nothing like that this is still very Dutch, which is to say, center center, right? fairly calm politics. But a lot of people are worried that this is going to break a lot of European issues, perhaps causing complications for Ukraine policy. And the short version is we’re just not there yet. The Netherlands has a very different electoral system for the United States. So in the United States, we have a first pass the post single member district system, which is a fancy way of saying that when you go to the ballot box, you vote for a very specific person who is going to represent a very specific group of people in a delineated geographic area, whether it’s your state or your district. And that’s not how it works in the Netherlands, in the Netherlands, you go and you vote for a party. And if a party gets 30% of the vote as grid builders party did, they then get 30% of the parliamentary seats. This is an interesting system that allows for maybe a little bit more of a pure democracy system, although you don’t know who you’re going to necessarily get, because it’s not a party list. And if they get 30 seats, and that’s their top 30 people in their party, let’s get the seats.
But the Netherlands has a weird way of doing things because they really don’t have a floor, there’s 150 seats in their parliament. And if you get one 100 and 50th of the vote, you get a seat, which means you get a lot of parties, and I think there’s going to be something like 11 in the new Parliament. So Wilders isn’t simply going to be Prime Minister, he first has to cobble together a coalition of a minimum of four parties in order to then establish a government. This is a lengthy process, even when everybody sees everything from the same point of view. So the outgoing government route, for example, took them nine months to build their government last time, I think, eight months the time before that. So we are not going to see a new Dutch government this year. And it’s entirely possible considering how
I actually say this personality challenge to the elders is that we might not even see it next year. Now you shouldn’t necessarily expect to see huge shifts in policymaking in the near term, because some of Villers more from the Dutch point of view, egregious ideas are going to have to go away if he’s going to build a coalition. In addition, there’s really not a lot of argument anywhere across the political spectrum. In the Netherlands, about Netherlands place in the world.
That other lens is pro American and pro British and pro European for reasons that are different from a lot of other countries, specifically the pro European because they don’t really like the Germans or the French that much. And the general idea is if you can get the French and the Germans into an institution where other members can kind of dilute their influence, then everybody wins, especially the Dutch because they handle the trade between the French and the Germans. They like to keep the Brits close, because it’s again, a hedge against Germany and France, we like to keep the Americans close for the same reason. Keep in mind that the Netherlands is a small chunk of territory for roughly the size of this state here.
And as a result, it has a little problem with defense because it’s completely flat. And its its borders are completely exposed to its neighbors. So it’s never going to be a military power. All it can hope is to entangle as many other military powers into its own interests, so that the friends or the Germans don’t just run roughshod across them. The problem we’re going to see is not with European policy, per se, it’s not like things are going to change them than other ones. It’s just that for the next several months, maybe up to a year, we’re not going to have a government in the Netherlands that’s capable of playing what has traditionally been the other big role of the Netherlands in Europe, and that is of broker. Because the Netherlands either considered the smallest of the large states or the largest of the small states. They’ve got their fingers on a lot of pots and allows the Netherlands to broker deals with parties across the spectrum on economic size and wealth, that you wouldn’t expect a middle power like the Netherlands to be able to pull off. And in this mark Ruth has been key. There’s been a lot that’s happened under his leadership. He came in at the tail end of the financial crisis when the Greek bailouts were getting really crazy. He helped participate in the solidification of the expansion to include the new members. And now he’s played a central role in the next wave of expansion that is supposed to include a number of countries in the former Soviet sphere of influence up to including Ukraine, and he’s been doing this while being a relatively reliable spokesman for America.
Can British interest in the Europe as long as it doesn’t hurt Europe? So this sort of balanced, integrated player has been very, very, very important to everything that’s gone down in Europe for the last decade because he or he’s been running the place for almost 15 years now. The builders, regardless of what he says, he does have a lot of experience doing this. Yes, he has been in the parliament for the last quarter century, but he’s never been in a government. He reminds me a little bit of Joe Biden is that he’s never really had a big boy job. And so it’s going to take time for him to build the gravitas it’s necessary to play that broker role within the European Union. And until then, the French and the Germans don’t have the marriage counselor and the rest of Europe doesn’t have their advocate of their handbrake. That’s assuming we get a government tomorrow. And we’re not going to get a government for months. So the ability of Europe to manage in this environment just went down a very, very big Dutch shaped notch because none other ones at the moment can’t play traditional role.

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