The right-wing Forum for Democracy (FvD), led by its charismatic leader Thierry Baudet, has exceeded expectations and achieved a shock win during Wednesday’s Dutch regional elections, which in turn determines the composition of the Dutch Senate.
As a consequence, the party is set to be the largest party in the Senate and win 13 seats in the chamber, one more than the ruling center-right People’s Party of Freedom and Democracy (VVD). The elections ended the Dutch government’s majority in the upper house, which is comprised of the neoliberal VVD, two center-right Christian parties, and one center-left liberal party.
As a result, FvD is set to play a pivotal role in the Netherlands’ deeply divided coalition politics. Though VVD Prime Minister Martin Rutte has left the door open to cooperation between his government and the Forum, his first choice is reportedly to cut deals with the hard-left GreenLeft party.
The win was so surprising that even the party did not anticipate anything like it, winning more seats than it had candidates.
The FvD has a nationalist-populist platform, emphasizing tax cuts, preservation of Dutch national sovereignty from the EU, opposition to Islamization, restricted immigration, an improvement in relations with Russia, and introduction of Swiss-style direct democracy to take power out of the hands of political elites.
The result was to the detriment of Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV), which suffered substantial losses. The PVV struggled to reach middle class voters, while the FvD was able to unite the populist base with more intellectual conservative voters, as well as present itself as a new movement separate from the Dutch politics of the past.
Baudet has aroused controversy through his ties to nationalist figures worldwide, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, Jared Taylor and Milo Yiannopoulos. However, he has debunked accusations that he holds far-right sympathies, pointing to his Iranian girlfriend and the party’s decision to put forward candidates of Indian descent.