There are elections coming up in the Netherlands. And everyone's talking about Geert Wilders and his Party of Freedom, the xenophobic chauvinistic populists who've been poisoning the political discourse there for years. According to the latest polls, Wilders and his cohort are most likely going to end up the second biggest party after the ruling VVD (conservative liberals). Even if Wilders does get a slight edge and finishes first, he'd still need a coalition partner to make a government, unless he somehow gets 50%+ of the votes, which is unlikely.
As for possible coalition partners for Wilders, of course we shouldn't rule out any possibilities, but the fact is, several major parties have already categorically rejected the possibility of cooperating with him. So his chances of becoming prime minister are close to zero.
In fact, his ratings have shown a slight decrease in recent weeks. Mostly because his election campaign has been nothing short of ridiculous. He never personally appeared anywhere, on any campaign events. That's probably why some fence-sitting voters changed their opinion about his party. Still, it's too early to rule him out. Many are asking the question if all calculations are right, or he's planning some surprise attack in the final hour.
That said, it's not like he's not being topic number one everywhere. He caused quite a stir with his populist statements against Islam, against the EU and of course against migrants. I wouldn't say he's undemocratic per se, but he sure is a provocateur, and he's willing to test the limits of democracy. Unlike Trump, he's consistent, he does have political principles (as twisted and toxic as those might be), and he tends to act in a very calculated and smart way. Whatever they say about him, there's no doubt he's a very experienced politician.
His tirades against Muslims and migrants have crossed the line, though. After the Berlin Christmas attacks for example, he tweeted (!) a photoshopped pic of Angela Merkel with hands covered in blood. And he's been active on Twitter these days too, essentially saying "I told you so" after the Turkish riots in Rotterdam and the row with Erdogan.
I'd say he has become more radical over the years, as things have escalated in Europe. He now looks obsessed with the fight against Islam. Many people in the Netherlands are asking themselves what might have happened to him during the years of his isolation. I mean, he's been living like a hermit since 2004, practically imprisoned inside his home, under police protection because of the constant death threats.
He created his party in 2006. And its influence in Dutch political life has been growing ever since. Basically, that's part of the general turn to the right that we're seeing across Europe. The other parties, like the liberals of the current prime minister Mark Rutte don't want to give up the reins to people like Wilders by losing support and votes. But their problem is, Wilders has tilted the political spectrum to the extreme right, and has shifted the boundaries of acceptable political language. In the 90s, any politician would've been prosecuted by law for what they're now speaking openly. But the new norm is different now.
So who are the people who tend to vote for Wilders and his party? Well, part of those are a firm electorate, and they've supported him for years. Polls show that they're predominantly male, generally of lower education... you know, people who've felt marginalized in a dynamically developing society. Many vote for him as a protest against the political establishment. Just like in other countries like Germany and France, there's been a considerable movement directed against the wide and clumsy mainstream coalitions, and Wilders is skillfully tapping on that.
So let's hypothetically say that Wilders would be able to rule in the near future. Would his loud promises become reality - like exiting the EU, banning the Quran and closing the borders? I think that's unrealistic. There's not nearly enough support in the Netherlands for a EU exit, at least from what I've seen so far. And his other demands are incompatible with the constitution. Besides, the Dutch prime minister doesn't have as much power as the German chancellor or the US president. So it's mostly hot air coming out of his bodily orifices. But we already knew that, didn't we? After all, that's what populism is mostly about: winning big on elections through wild promises - and then failing miserably with keeping them, once in power.