The anti-Islam Freedom Party of Geert Wilders has made major gains in local elections held in the Netherlands. Taking part in two cities it has become the largest party in Almere and the second largest in The Hague.
The two largest parties in the former coalition government both lost seats on municipal councils. The Labour Party (PvdA), led by Wouter Bos, and the Christian Democrats (CDA), led by now caretaker prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, paid the price for three years of difficult government
Mr Wilders was visibly buoyed by the results and was characteristically combative saying this was the first step in the upcoming campaign for parliamentary elections.
“The national campaign begins today in Almere and The Hague, tomorrow in all of the Netherlands… On 9 June, we’ll conquer the Netherlands,” said Mr Wilders.
The fall of the Dutch cabinet and the upcoming campaign for parliamentary elections overshadowed Wednesday’s municipal elections in the Netherlands. The actual results for the nearly 400 municipal councils hardly seemed to matter. All interest was focused on the implications for the upcoming parliamentary race.
And even though it only took part in two municipalities it was clear the day’s big winner was the “right-wing populist” party of Geert Wilders.
Eye on the prize
And, of course, Mr Wilders now has his eye on the larger prize. His Freedom Party has profited more than any other from the fall of the Dutch cabinet ten days ago. The party currently has nine seats in parliament (out of 150).
If voters had elected a new parliament on Wednesday, the Freedom Party would have won between 24 and 27 seats. In one poll, it would be the largest single party. If his party does that well come June, Geert Wilders could become the next prime minister.