The Wilders Wilders West

The Netherlands goes to the polls tomorrow haunted by the prospect of a peroxide-blond, anti-immigrant firebrand leading his party to victory. Following the political earthquakes that were Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, Geert Wilders – founder and leader of the Netherland’s Party for Freedom (PVV) – is hoping to complete a hat-trick for the nationalists in tomorrow’s elections, in doing so sending a shudder throughout the Western world as an aggressive form of nativism takes hold in yet another Western European stronghold.

Wilders – the “man who founded Trumpism” according to Politico – and his nationalist, right-wing populist party (founded in 2006) is currently ahead in the polls. Yet, the Netherlands’ parliamentary system works through a proportional representation system, ensuring that though Wilders’ PVV has a significant chance of becoming the largest party, it is unlikely to form part of the country’s governing coalition.

Why? The other parties in the running have refused to even countenance working with Wilders and his toxic brand of anti-Islamic populism. One-time ally and now Conservative Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has categorically ruled out Wilders being involved in any post-election coalition.

Wilders can therefore look forward to plenty of horse trading tomorrow amongst rival parties, safe in the knowledge that his party – founded just a decade ago – is now the largest in Holland (if one believes the polls). Rutte will probably cobble together a coalition from across the political spectrum, but whether this will provide the foundation for stable governance remains to be seen. Wilders’ shadow will loom large, ready to pounce on any terrorist attack or security scare that hits the Netherlands, sustained by his democratic mandate as the leader of the Netherlands’ largest political party.

A “Nexit” as the Netherlands’ hypothetical departure from the EU has been labelled, remains unlikely. The support for such an eventuality isn’t there. What tomorrow may provoke is a reaction from progressive politicians across Europe. A response and a coherent plan of action is what is required to negate the quickening march of populism across the Western world and to prevent a drift into the Wilders, Wilders West.