The Netherlands, a country once praised for its tolerance and open mindedness, held its national elections on Wednesday. During these elections, the so-called Freedom Party (PVV) won 24 out of the 150 available seats.
The most concerning thing however is that the winners of the elections, the Liberals (VVD) who won 31 seats, seem to be actually willing to form a coalition and govern with this party.
Although he says his views are permissible under the banner of freedom of speech, Geert Wilders, the leader of the PVV, is sowing seeds of division, specifically targeted at a minority group of the Dutch population.
In addition, his wins are bad news for Europe, as Mr Wilders is amongst those supporting the abolition of the European Parliament.
Talks on the formation of the Government are currently ongoing. The Liberals (VVD) would need another party aside from the PVV to come onboard in order to be able to form a majority coalition and would appear to be eyeing the CDA – the Christian Democrats – who under former Prime Minister Balkenende’s leadership saw their number of seats cut from 41 to 21.
The day after the election results were announced Mr Wilders quickly threw his hat into the ring. He wants to be in the government and appears more than willing to set aside some of his principles to get in.
Would the CDA accept to rule with a party so contrary to its Christian value of loving thy neighbour?
And would such a coalition mean that Mr Wilders would actually become the Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands?
The aspiring new Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte – a 43 year old bachelor and former HR Director at Unilever who will be the first Liberal Prime Minister for decades – expects a difficult Government formation.
For the moment he is stating that a coalition with the Labour party is still a “long way off” due to the strong differences in opinion between the two parties. Rutte first wants to speak to the PVV, who he feels is the big winner in the elections. Of course, the fact that the Labour party is almost as big as the VVD – they only won 1 seat less – also plays a role for Mr Rutte as this could potentially lead to internal power struggles.
Is Dutch tolerance a distant past? Or can the VVD really argue that because of the very principle of tolerance, Mr Wilders should be given a fair hearing?