Friday, June 05, 2009

Geert Wilders' anti-EU party biggest election winner in Dutch European Elections

Radio Netherlands

The biggest winners in Thursday's European Parliament elections in the Netherlands are the two most outspoken parties: Geert Wilders' nationalist anti-EU party and the firmly pro-EU social-liberal party D66.

Fielding candidates for the first time, Mr Wilders' staunchly anti-European party will be returning four of the 25 Dutch MEPs. The other winners are social-liberal D66 and Green Left, both of whom are firm advocates of the European Union; each will send three MEPs to Brussels.

The Freedom Party MEPs will be headed by Barry Madlener; Mr Wilders will remain an MP in The Hague. The Freedom Party has ruled out joining any of the existing multi-party factions in the EP. In his victory speech, Mr Madlener repeated he will go for "less Europe, more Netherlands, Turkey never an EU member".

Listen to the reactions of senior Dutch politicians and party leaders to the European parliamentary election results (See below for details of the politicians featured in the report*)

Given the size of the European Parliament - it has 736 seats - it remains doubtful whether the Freedom Party will manage to make its mark, all by itself. That's a worrying scenario, Amsterdam politicologist André Krouwel told RNW's Perro de Jong:

"I'm afraid that all the people who pinned their hopes on Wilders and who did so in earnest may once again get the feeling that they are not being understood, and that their problems are not being taken seriously. It may cause them to become disillusioned with the political system forever."

"Yes" to EU wins too
Voters rejected the other parties' two-faced approach of a "no" to the Brussels bureaucracy, but a "yes" to the European ideals. They voted either for the Freedom Party's "no", or for the outspoken "yes" of the other outright winner, social-liberal D66. The rejuvenated liberals even centred their campaign around their pro-European position, and tripled their following. EU-friendly ecology party Green Left, too, managed to gain an extra seat.

National effect
Formally the elections have no repercussions on national politics, but the vote is generally seen as a nationwide opinion poll on the performance of the Dutch government and opposition in The Hague. Emphasising that his party was now the country's second biggest in terms of voter share, Geert Wilders was quick to claim that the results are a call on the government to step down.

Opinion polls had been predicting that Mr Wilders' PVV would become the country's biggest party if general elections were held now. As it happens, in Thursday's EU elections the party narrowly failed to dethrone the Christian Democrats as the country's largest party.

The three parties that form the governing coalition together lost 6 of their 16 MEPs. The biggest blow was administered to Labour, the big loser in the contest, which was more than halved, from 7 to 3 seats. The Christian Democrats lost 2 of their 7 seats.

The third coalition partner, small Christian Union, remained stable at two seats, as did opposition Socialist Party. Opposition conservative VVD, which had feared being leeched by Mr Wilders' party, lost just one of its four seats.

Wait till Sunday
The final results of the Europe-wide elections will not be known until Sunday evening, when voting has been completed in all EU member states. Contravening Brussels' preferences, the Netherlands is not witholding the election results until Sunday. The tradition is for the outcome to be published as soon as the votes have been counted.

*Senior Dutch politicians and party leaders responding to the European election results, in the order they feature in the report:

  • Femke Halsema, leader of the Green Left party in the Dutch parliament
  • Jack de Vries, deputy defence minister and prominent Christian Democrat
  • Hans van Balen, Conservative VVD leader for the European election
  • Harrry van Bommel, Socialist Party MP
  • Wim van de Camp, Christian Democrat leader for the European election
  • Femke Halsema
  • Geert Wilders, Freedom Party leader
  • Barry Madlener, Freedom Party leader for the European election
  • Hero Brinkman, Freedom Party MP

The table below summarises the Dutch results, with 92 percent of the votes counted.
Turnout was at 36 percent, slightly below the 40 percent mark of 2004.

EP 2009 election results (old seat count in brackets)
Christian Democrats 5 (7)
Labour 3 (7)
Conservative VVD 3 (4)
Social-liberal D66 3 (1)
GreenLeft 3 (2)
Socialist Party 2 (2)
Christian Union/Dutch Reformed Party 2 (2)
Freedom Party 4 (0)

- Geert Wilders winner
- Wikipedia: Geert Wilders

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