Geert Wilders setback: Europe’s far right in trouble

March 19, 2024 | by


Geert Wilders, a prominent far-right political figure in Europe, has recently experienced a setback that has sent shockwaves through the far-right movement. This development signifies potential trouble for other far-right parties across Europe. Wilders, known for his strong anti-immigration stance and controversial rhetoric, was expected to perform well in the recent Dutch elections. However, his party, the Party for Freedom (PVV), failed to gain as much support as anticipated, leading many to question the future of the far-right movement in Europe. This article explores the implications of Wilders’ setback and its potential impact on other far-right parties in the region.

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Table of Contents

Background on Geert Wilders

Who is Geert Wilders?

Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician known for his far-right views and anti-Islam stance. Born on September 6, 1963, in Venlo, Netherlands, Wilders began his political career in the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) before founding his own party, the Party for Freedom (PVV), in 2006.

Overview of his political career

Wilders’ political career gained momentum when he became a member of the Dutch House of Representatives in 1998. Throughout the years, he has been a divisive and controversial figure, known for his provocative statements about Islam, immigration, and the European Union. Wilders quickly rose to prominence with his outspoken views on these issues, often attracting both praise and criticism.

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Key positions and policies

Wilders’ key positions and policies revolve around limiting immigration, opposing Islamization, and leaving the European Union. He is a vocal advocate for increased border controls and stricter immigration policies. Wilders has called for banning the Quran, building a Dutch-only culture, and enforcing a full burqa ban in the Netherlands. He strongly opposes the EU’s influence on Dutch sovereignty and advocates for a “Nexit,” a Dutch exit from the European Union.

Geert Wilders’ setback

Description of the setback

Geert Wilders experienced a setback in the 2021 Dutch general election. Despite initial expectations of a strong performance, Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) lost seats in the parliament. This setback marked a decline in electoral support for Wilders and his far-right ideology.

Details of the election or event

The 2021 Dutch general election took place on March 17, 2021. The election saw Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) emerge as the largest party, securing 35 seats in the 150-seat parliament. However, Wilders’ PVV experienced a decline, winning only 17 seats compared to the 20 seats they held before.

Impact on Wilders’ party and the far right in Europe

Wilders’ setback in the election had implications for both his party and the far right in Europe. The loss of seats for PVV indicated a diminishing electoral appeal for Wilders and his far-right agenda. Additionally, the setback suggested that the far-right wave that had been sweeping through Europe in recent years may be losing momentum.

Analysis of the setback

Reasons for Wilders’ loss

There were several reasons for Geert Wilders’ loss in the Dutch general election. One significant factor was the ability of Prime Minister Rutte to position himself as a strong leader during the COVID-19 pandemic, which resonated with voters. Additionally, Wilders’ divisive rhetoric and extreme views may have alienated moderate voters, causing them to support more centrist parties.

Comparison to previous electoral performances

Wilders’ performance in the 2021 election was a disappointment compared to his previous electoral performances. In the 2010 and 2012 elections, PVV won 24 and 15 seats, respectively, making them the third-largest party in the Dutch parliament. However, since then, the party’s support has gradually decreased, with the 2021 election marking a further decline.


Key factors contributing to the setback

One key factor contributing to Wilders’ setback was the political landscape shifting towards more centrist parties, particularly Prime Minister Rutte’s VVD. Rutte’s ability to appeal to a broader range of voters and his successful handling of the COVID-19 crisis overshadowed Wilders’ far-right agenda. Additionally, the backlash against Wilders’ controversial and divisive rhetoric played a role in his loss, as voters sought more moderate and inclusive options.

Implications for Europe’s far right

Effect on other far right parties in Europe

Wilders’ setback in the Dutch election may have implications for other far-right parties in Europe. It serves as a cautionary tale for these parties, highlighting the challenges they face in gaining broader public support and effectively implementing their far-right agendas. It also emphasizes the importance of adapting to changing political dynamics and effectively addressing voter concerns.

Are other far right parties facing similar challenges?

Other far-right parties across Europe may indeed be facing similar challenges. The decline in support for Wilders’ PVV suggests a potential weakening of the far-right movement as a whole. Parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France and Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy may also have to confront the limitations of their far-right ideologies and reassess their strategies to remain relevant.

Potential consequences for the far right’s influence in European politics

The setback of Geert Wilders and the far right in the Netherlands could have consequences for the far right’s influence in European politics. As far-right parties continue to face challenges in gaining broader electoral support, their ability to shape policy and drive the political agenda may be diminished. This could result in a greater emphasis on centrist and mainstream parties in shaping European politics in the coming years.

Shifts in European political landscape

Overview of recent political developments in Europe

The European political landscape has undergone significant shifts in recent years. The rise of populist and nationalist movements has challenged the dominance of established political parties. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump in the United States, and the growing influence of far-right parties in countries like Hungary and Poland have demonstrated a growing discontent with mainstream politics and institutions.

Rise of populist and far right movements/parties

Populist and far-right movements and parties have gained traction across Europe, capitalizing on issues such as immigration, Euroscepticism, and national identity. Parties like Alternative for Germany (AfD), Sweden Democrats, and National Rally (formerly National Front) in France have experienced varying degrees of success, often disrupting traditional party systems and forcing mainstream parties to respond to their demands.

Potential impact of Wilders’ setback on these trends

Geert Wilders’ setback in the Dutch election may impact the broader trend of rising populist and far-right movements in Europe. The decline of PVV and the shift towards more centrist parties could signal a turning point in the political fortunes of far-right movements. The setback may energize mainstream parties to address the concerns that have driven support for the far right, potentially reshaping the political landscape.

Analysis of far right ideology

Key characteristics of far right ideology

Far-right ideology is characterized by its emphasis on nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, and a rejection of globalism and multiculturalism. Far-right parties often focus on protecting national identity and traditions, opposing multicultural policies, limiting immigration, and advocating for stronger border controls. They frequently invoke populist rhetoric, appealing to the grievances and fears of their supporters.

Historical context and origins of far right movements in Europe

The origins of far-right movements in Europe can be traced back to the early 20th century, with the rise of fascist and Nazi ideologies. These movements gained traction during times of economic and political turmoil, exploiting societal divisions and offering simplified answers to complex problems. In contemporary Europe, the far right has found resonance in the wake of globalization, increased immigration, and perceived threats to national identity.

Critiques and controversies surrounding the far right

The far right has faced a range of critiques and controversies. Critics argue that far-right parties promote xenophobia, racism, and intolerance, while undermining democratic norms and institutions. The far right’s focus on ethnonationalism and exclusionary policies has drawn condemnation from human rights organizations and left-leaning groups. Controversies also arise from the far right’s rejection of international cooperation, such as the EU, and concerns over their potential impact on social cohesion.

Response from mainstream parties

Reactions from major political parties in Europe

Mainstream parties in Europe have responded to the rise of far-right movements in different ways. Some parties have adopted more hardline stances on issues such as immigration and national identity to counter the appeal of far-right parties. Others have emphasized the importance of inclusive policies, diversity, and social welfare to provide an alternative to the far right’s nationalist rhetoric.

Strategies employed by mainstream parties to counter the far right

Mainstream parties have implemented various strategies to counter the far right. These include adopting more restrictive immigration policies, investing in economic and social programs to address inequality, and engaging in constructive dialogue with marginalized communities. Mainstream parties have also sought to emphasize the benefits of European integration and the democratic values that underpin it.

Effectiveness of these strategies

The effectiveness of strategies employed by mainstream parties to counter the far right varies. While some measures, such as stricter immigration policies, may help diminish the appeal of far-right parties, they also risk alienating certain voter groups and undermining core democratic values of inclusivity and human rights. Ultimately, the success of these strategies depends on tailoring approaches to specific national contexts and effectively addressing the underlying concerns of voters.

Role of social media and technology

Impact of social media on the rise of far right movements

Social media has played a significant role in the rise of far-right movements across Europe. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have provided a powerful tool for disseminating far-right propaganda, organizing rallies, and connecting like-minded individuals. The viral spread of misinformation and the ability to create echo chambers have contributed to the recruitment and radicalization of individuals into far-right ideologies.

Strategies utilized by far right groups on social media

Far-right groups have effectively utilized social media to amplify their message and reach a broad audience. They have leveraged emotive content, nationalist narratives, and conspiracy theories to attract followers and fuel polarization. Many far-right individuals and organizations have also exploited algorithmic biases and engaged in targeted advertising to expand their reach and influence.

Efforts by technology companies and governments to combat online extremism

Technology companies and governments have made efforts to combat online extremism and the spread of far-right ideologies. Social media platforms have implemented policies to remove hate speech, disinformation, and extremist content. Governments have set up task forces and legislation to address online extremism, including strengthening hate speech laws and increasing regulation of social media platforms. However, the effectiveness of these efforts remains a subject of ongoing debate.

Far right in the post-Wilders era

Assessment of the far right’s future prospects in Europe

The far right’s future prospects in Europe remain uncertain in the post-Wilders era. While far-right movements continue to exist and exert influence in several countries, the setback experienced by Wilders may signal challenges ahead. The declining support for the PVV and the shifting political landscape in Europe suggest that far-right ideologies may face increased scrutiny and resistance in the coming years.

Emerging leaders and parties within the far right

Despite the setback of Geert Wilders, the far-right landscape in Europe is not devoid of emerging leaders and parties. Figures such as Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, and Santiago Abascal have gained prominence within their respective countries, offering their own variations of far-right ideologies. These leaders, along with their parties, continue to shape the far-right discourse and political landscape within their countries.

Potential shifts in tactics and messaging

The setback of Geert Wilders may lead to potential shifts in tactics and messaging within the far right. Far-right parties may reassess their strategies, focusing on more moderate messaging to appeal to a broader range of voters. Some parties may also seek to distance themselves from explicit nationalist agendas and instead emphasize economic issues and social welfare in an attempt to broaden their appeal.


In conclusion, Geert Wilders’ setback in the Dutch general election marks a decline in support for the far right in Europe. The reasons for this setback are multifaceted, including the ability of mainstream parties to respond to voter concerns and the backlash against far-right rhetoric. The implications extend beyond Wilders and the Netherlands, potentially influencing the trajectory of far-right movements and the broader European political landscape. The challenges and controversies surrounding the far right, the response from mainstream parties, the role of social media, and the future prospects of the far right are significant factors to consider when analyzing the impact of Wilders’ setback. Ultimately, the outcome of the Dutch election serves as a reminder of the complex dynamics at play in European politics and the ongoing struggle between far-right ideologies and democratic values.

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