Geert Wilders, the far-right populist leader in the Netherlands, appears to have made a major victory in the country’s parliamentary elections Wednesday, according to an exit poll. Wilders’ anti-immigration and Eurosceptic Freedom Party (PVV) was projected to gain five seats in the Dutch House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, bringing its seat total there to 20.
Wilders campaigned on a platform of anti-immigration, defense of the national borders, and harsh criticism of Islam and the European Union. The PVV has also deemed itself the only alternative to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right party.
This victory for Wilders comes despite the fact that he was viewed as an outsider by the mainstream parties, such as the Christian Democratic Appeal and Democratic 66, but his supporters have responded enthusiastically to his public appearances. Critics have accused Wilders of dangerous, xenophobic rhetoric, and his victory is likely to cause worry for the traditionally centrist Netherlands.
The exit poll makes Wilders’ party the second-biggest force in the Dutch parliament, behind Rutte’s VVD party. It is unclear how this result will affect the country’s political landscape, or how other parties, such as D66 or the Labour party, would cooperate with Wilders’ far-right party.
Regardless, the PVV’s victory Wednesday is indicative of the growing influence of populist movements in Europe. Wilders’ win also appears to come after similar successful campaigns from other anti-EU leaders such as Marine Le Pen in France and Viktor Orban in Hungary, who have made major political gains despite their Eurosceptic outlooks.