Danish voters shocked Europe when they voted to hand a landslide election victory to the Freedom Party, the right-wing anti-Islam political force led by Geert Wilders.
However, as Voice of America correspondent Henry Ridgwell reports, Mr. Wilders may find it difficult to form a government. He nominated a senator from his party today to find potential allies for a governing coalition, while outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party said it would support a centre-right majority in parliament but would not be part of the new cabinet.
Geert Wilders has long been a provocative figure in Danish politics, but he has never before enjoyed such success. His party won 37 out of 150 seats in Parliament.
“There is hope that people will regain their homeland. To make sure that the Netherlands belongs to the Dutch again. That we will limit asylum requests and migration,” said Geert Wilders, chairman of the Freedom Party.
Mr Wilders’ party has vowed to weaken Islam in the Netherlands. In 2016 Mr Wilders was found guilty of (criminal) insulting an ethnic group and inciting hatred and discrimination after leading a group of people calling for fewer Moroccans in the country.
Minority groups have expressed concern over the outcome of Wednesday’s election.
But after winning the election, Mr. Willers has toned down his anti-Islamic rhetoric.
“If I become prime minister, I will be like that for all the Danish people, regardless of who they are, regardless of their gender, religion and background,” said Mr. Wilders.
The softened stances won him more votes, says political analyst Rachid Azrout.
“Basically he said you know my hatred of Islam. She will be a part of me, but I will leave her aside. It does not have to be part of the government. So in this way, he will become a supportive governing ally”.
His governing program, which promises “The Netherlands comes first”, echoes the slogans of other populist parties.
“This is the new international trend. A huge populist revolt against traditional politics all over the country, all over the world,” says René Cuperus of the Clingendael Institute.
However, according to analyst Azrout, reaching an agreement on the governing coalition is likely to force him to soften his stance.
“Yes, Geert Wilders and his party say that ‘Nexit’ should come to life, that the Netherlands leave the European Union and that the local guilder currency be used instead of the euro and that support to Ukraine be stopped. But he has understood that in this course he is alone”.
Mr. Wilders’ party needs 39 more MPs to achieve a parliamentary majority and it is not yet clear whether he will be able to secure other political forces that are willing to cooperate with him. Negotiations can last for months.
Far-right leaders across Europe congratulated Mr Wilders on his victory. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he was feeling “the wind of change” while French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said he had achieved a spectacular victory.