Published On: Tue, Dec 12th, 2023

Bold promises

By Hilbert Haar

It will take some time before the Netherlands has a new government – with or without Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV (Party for Freedom) and winner of the Dutch elections. Wilders has to deal with two formidable obstacles: VVD-leader Dilan Yesilgöz, who does not want to be part of a Wilders-government but is thinking about supporting him from the opposition benches and Pieter Omtzigt of NSC (New Social Contract) who wants constitutional guarantees from Wilders.

While Wilders has toned down his rhetoric because he badly wants to become the next Dutch prime minister, Omtzigt is not so sure. Reading the PVV party manifesto makes two things clear. Omtzigt’s concerns are real and Wilders will never be able to deliver on the countless promises he made in his manifesto, so his voters are going to be sorely disappointed with the composition of a new government.

The PVV-manifesto makes plenty of bold promises that have one thing in common: the number one position is for Dutch citizens. In this sense, Wilders is copying the strategy of extreme-right parties that went before him: the Nederlandse Volksunie and the Centrum Party who both flirted with the legacy of Adolf Hitler.

Joop Glimmerveen, the late on-and-off chairman of the Volksunie had a clear vision. He once campaigned with the slogan: “The Hague has to remain white and safe.” He openly admitted what his goal was: “All foreigners out of the country.”

Wilders says the same thing with different words “We have to reconquer the Netherlands,” the PVV-manifesto states. “It is necessary to close our borders for even more fortune seekers. Real refugees must not be accommodated here but in their own region.”

Glimmerveen once said in an interview: “If I had said at the time what Wilders is saying now I would have been at the police station a long time ago. He is not removing foreigners, he wants to take away their religion but that is a delusional idea. You cannot take Hitler away from me either.”

The PVV also claims that Dutch people are being discriminated because refugees get priority for access to housing. “Our money has to go to our own people.”

The party incorrectly claims that the Netherlands is the second-most populated country in the European Union, after Malta. This is incorrect: Monaco takes the top spot, followed by Vatican City; Malta takes third place. A global ranking shows St. Maarten in tenth place with 1,300 inhabitants per square kilometer and the Netherlands in 32nd place with 424 inhabitants per square kilometer. (Malta is eighth on this list with 1,700 inhabitants per square kilometer).

These numbers do not really square with the PVV-notion that the Netherlands is over-populated.

Wilders also claims that non-western immigrants are three times more often suspects of crimes than Dutch citizens. CBS-date show however that the percentage of immigrant-suspects declined from 3.3 to 1.1 percent between 2005 and 2021.

Here is one of Wilders’ favorite issues: his claim that the Netherlands is not an Islamic country. Therefore, the PVV does not want Islamic schools, no Korans and no mosques. That is a constitutional problem, because the constitution guarantees freedom of education and freedom of religion. But for PVV-voters, such statements are music to their ears.

Another empty promise: life sentences will become real life sentences again. In other words: lifers will never get out again. Even if Wilders manages to get political support for this idea, judges will not – no: cannot – fall for it, because life sentences can only be imposed if they offer perspective on release in the future.

I am not going into all the details of the PVV-manifesto because you can read more details online for yourself. Let me close off with a number of PVV-promises that will likely never become a reality: 10,000 additional police officers, a 20 percent reduction on salaries for politicians, a ban on Islamic education, military assistance for border control, a binding referendum about Nexit, abolition of development aid, higher minimum wages and the dentist in the basic insurance package.

It is easy (and also uncomfortable) to understand why so many people fell for all these promises, while the outcome is almost a certainty: many PVV-voters are going to be sorely disappointed.

The islands in the Caribbean, may still hope that the next Dutch government will be a lot more reasonable than one under the leadership of Geert Wilders.