Tight race in Netherlands’ EU polls

June 7, 2024 by No Comments

Parliamentary elections for the European Union commenced in the Netherlands on Thursday. Exit polls indicate that Geert Wilders’ far-right party has made significant gains and is in a close race with an alliance of social democrats and greens to emerge as the largest party.

These results suggest potential electoral gains for far-right parties throughout the EU during the four-day voting period that concludes on Sunday. They also demonstrate a shift in sentiment in one of the EU’s founding nations, where enthusiasm for the EU has given way to conflicting views on the balance of power between the EU and its member states.

Similar divisions have manifested in campaigns across Europe.

The final NOS Ipsos exit poll projects that Wilders’ Party for Freedom may secure seven seats, a substantial increase from the single seat it held in the previous Parliament. The center-left alliance is predicted to win eight of the 31 European Parliament seats allocated to the Netherlands.

Due to the nature of exit polls, it remains premature to declare a victor. Official results will be announced on Sunday evening after all 27 EU nations have completed voting.

Despite falling short of his landslide victory in the Dutch national elections in November, Wilders expressed jubilation. “It is evident that there is only one clear winner,” he declared.

Wilders aims to capitalize on his popularity and influence the EU by advocating for reduced powers for EU institutions. This would grant member states greater autonomy in areas such as migration and law enforcement.

Paradoxically, like other far-right leaders within the bloc, including Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and French opposition leader Marine Le Pen, Wilders seeks to strengthen the European Parliament’s power in order to weaken it from within.

Final EU-wide results will be announced in Brussels following the conclusion of voting on Sunday night.

Frans Timmermans, a former EU climate czar and leader of the social democrat-greens alliance, expressed satisfaction that his group has maintained its position after suffering a significant defeat by Wilders in the national elections in November.

“Since November, it has often been portrayed in many countries that Wilders is in control, Wilders makes decisions, Wilders alone represents the Netherlands. Now we have demonstrated that the Netherlands remains the diverse nation it has long been,” stated Timmermans. “Additionally, there is a majority—considering all pro-European seats—that supports the Netherlands’ involvement in building a stronger Europe.”

Wilders, however, contends that the surge in support stems from the opposite direction. He advocates for a broad coalition of far-right parties to challenge the traditional alliance of Christian Democrats, Socialists, pro-business Liberals, and Greens.

Since the previous EU election in 2019, populist, far-right, and extremist parties have gained control of governments in three EU nations, joined governing coalitions in several others, and appear to be garnering increasing public support across the continent.

The EU elections represent the world’s second-largest democratic exercise after the election in India, with significant stakes.

Approximately 400 million voters will elect 720 members to five-year terms in the European Parliament. These members will represent regions extending from the Arctic Circle to the borders of Africa and Asia. The results will impact a wide range of issues, including global climate policies, defense, migration, and geopolitical relations with and the United States.

While some countries held early voting, the Netherlands is the only EU nation to commence its single-day vote at this early stage, followed by Ireland and the Czech Republic on Friday and the remaining EU nations over the weekend. Europe-wide results will be declared on Sunday night after all member states have concluded voting.

The number of members elected from each country varies based on population size, ranging from six for Malta, Luxembourg, and Cyprus to 96 for Germany. In 2019, Europeans elected 751 lawmakers. The number of MEPs decreased to 705 following the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU in 2020. A portion of the 73 seats previously held by British MEPs were redistributed to other member states.

The elected officials, known as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), possess voting power on a broad range of legislation, including banking regulations, climate, agriculture, fisheries, security, and justice. They also participate in the EU budget, which is essential for the implementation of European policies, such as aid provided to Ukraine.

Following the election, MEPs will select their president at the first plenary session, taking place from July 16-19. Subsequently, likely in September, they will nominate the president of the European Commission, based on a proposal submitted by the member states. In 2019, von der Leyen narrowly won a vote to become the first woman to lead the institution. She is seeking a second term.