Tag Archives: formateur

As spring 2017 vote approaches, populist Wilders leading Dutch polls

The majority of polls show that Geert Wilders is leading in advance of the next Dutch election. (Geoff Pugh / The Telegraph)
The majority of polls show that Geert Wilders is leading in advance of the next Dutch election. (Geoff Pugh / The Telegraph)

Europe, it’s safe to say, was focused on a lot of threats in the last month — a polarized British electorate that voted to leave the European Union, ongoing worries about the Italian banking sector, yet another terrorist attack in France, a failed military coup in Turkey.Netherlands Flag Icon

No one has spent much time considering the possibility that political instability could come to the Netherlands, a northern European country that was one of the six founding members of what is today the European Union.

As Americans and non-Americans alike turn to Cleveland to watch the unorthodox spectacle of Donald Trump’s formal coronation as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, one of the Europeans in attendance hopes to become the next prime minister of The Netherlands. And he has reason for optimism. According to polls, Geert Wilders’s Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Party for Freedom) could win the next Dutch election, which must take place before March 15.

If those polls hold, Wilders, who has been a fixture in Dutch politics for more than a decade, would win the election by a robust margin, dwarfing the more traditional center-right, liberal Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD, People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) of prime minister Mark Rutte.

Wilders has enthusiastically embraced Trump at a time when nationalist populism is on the rise throughout the United States as well as Europe, tweeting out ‘Make The Netherlands Great Again’ to supporters earlier this spring. He’s arrived with a splash at the Republican National Convention, invited by the Tennessee delegation. As an outspoken critic of immigration, Islam and the European Union, Wilders hopes that he can finally break through to an election victory in March and perhaps, at long last, fulfill his dream of becoming prime minister.

Far-right Dutch leader Geert Wilders poses for a photo with Tennessee senator Bob Corker, chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Twitter)
Far-right Dutch leader Geert Wilders poses for a photo with Tennessee senator Bob Corker, chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Twitter)

Wilders inherited much of the support that Pim Fortuyn once commanded before the latter’s assassination in 2002. Wilders is known mostly for his outright rejection of Islam and his quest to terminate all immigration from Muslim-majority countries into the Netherlands. Though Wilders often denies links to other European far-right parties by pointing to his more liberal record on economic policy, he is clearly the Dutch analog to figures like Britain’s Nigel Farage and France’s Marine Le Pen. Wilders is  currently on trial in the Netherlands for inciting hatred as a result of disparaging comments he made about the Dutch Moroccan minority, though he wears the legal dispute as a badge of honor — a politician willing to speak the truth about Muslims. For more than a decade, following the assassinations of Fortuyn and filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (the latter killed by a Dutch citizen of Moroccan descent in 2004), Wilders lives under strict protection from potential threats.

Continue reading As spring 2017 vote approaches, populist Wilders leading Dutch polls

De Wever gets first shot at forming Belgium’s next government

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In Belgium, where national and regional elections were largely overshadowed by the simultaneous European parliamentary and Ukrainian presidential elections, Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever is working to assemble a broad center-right government from parties of both of Belgium’s linguistic regions.Belgium Flag

Realistically, however, though Belgium’s king Philippe, has given De Wever through tomorrow, June 10, to report back on possible coalitions, there’s a chance that Belgium’s coalition-building process could take months, if not the 541-day ordeal that followed the previous May 2010 national elections.

De Wever’s Flemish nationalist Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA, New Flemish Alliance) emerged as the clear winner of the May 25 Belgian federal elections. It won, by far, the largest share of the vote — 20.26% of the national vote, even though nearly all of it came from Flanders, where it outpolled the center-right CD&V by a margin of 32.22% to 18.47%. De Wever (pictured above), having lost an astonishing amount of weight through diet and exercise since the last election, has given the N-VA a new look, too. While it remains officially in favor of Flemish independence, it’s toned down its support for separation and increased its calls for greater regional autonomy. The N-VA has also enhanced its calls for tax cuts and a trimmer federal and regional budget.

That was enough to put the N-VA in the driver’s seat for the first round of post-election negotiations. Belgium’s king Philippe appointed De Wever as informateur, whose role is to report back to the Belgian king as to potential coalition possibilities. If De Wever can point to a credible governing majority, it’s possible Philippe will appoint him as formateur, officially charging him to form a government.


Outgoing prime minister Elio Di Rupo, the head of the French-speaking, Wallonia-based Parti Socialiste (PS, Socialist Party), is not expected to lead a second government, even though his party emerged as the second-largest in the 150-member Chamber of Representatives (Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers/Chambre des Représentants), and the largest vote-winner in French-speaking Wallonia.

Therein lies the awkwardness of the federal negotiations. The largest share of Flemish voters overwhelmingly supported an autonomist, center-right party, while the largest share of Walloon voters supported a federalist, center-left party.

De Wever is working to form a government of both Flemish and Walloon center-right, Christian democratic and liberal parties. But that would require a historic effort, given that Francophone parties have refused to work at the federal level alongside the N-VA in the past. Moreover, any Walloon parties willing to join forces with De Wever could face the wrath of Walloon voters at the next election.

Since the May 25 elections, the shape of Belgium’s regional governments have come increasingly into view, which will in turn influence the national government formation process.

Last week, Di Rupo’s Socialists announced that they would open coalition negotiations with the centrist, Christian democratic Centre démocrate humaniste (cdH, the Humanist Democratic Centre) to form a government in the 75-member regional parliament of Wallonia: 


The Walloon deal comes at the expense of the center-right, liberal Mouvement Réformateur (MR, Reform Movement), which made the greatest gains at the regional level, picking up six additional seats and which nearly outpolled the Socialists. The MR’s leaders are already decrying the deal between the Socialists and the cdH, arguing that they instead have the momentum to form a new Walloon government. 

The MR’s disappointment is amplified by the apparent coalition deal to lead the Brussels regional government, where the Socialists and the cdH intend to form a government with the Fédéralistes Démocrates Francophones (FDF, Francophone Democratic Federalists), until 2011 part of the MR coalition.

For now, the N-VA will likely become the senior partner in the Flemish government, continuing a partnership with the center-right Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams (CD&V, Christian Democratic and Flemish).


But because of the N-VA’s gains, largely at the expense of the CD&V, it’s unlikely that the CD&V’s Kris Peeters will remain as the minister-president of the Flanders region. Peeters and the N-VA’s Geert Bourgeois, who has served as vice-minister-president under Peeters since 2009, are leading the current negotiations for the Flemish government.

So what does all of this mean for the federal negotiations? Continue reading De Wever gets first shot at forming Belgium’s next government