When skimming Anglosaxon websites reporting on them, you would get the impression there's been an electoral seismic shock in Holland. I will not disagree, but it should be noted that, after all, they were elections of town councils - no parliamentary elections, national or European.
Then, the PVV, or Partij Voor Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) of Geert Wilders participated in only two cities, namely The Hague and Almere. The Hague, pop. appr. 486,000, is the third largest Dutch city. Though it is not the country's capital - that is Amsterdam - its importance is paramount since it is the seat of both the government and parliament (which the Dutch call the Staten-Generaal). In addition, Queen Beatrix lives and works here, and all foreign embassies are located in The Hague.
As for Almere, pop. 186,000, it is one of The Netherlands' youngest cities (its first house was completed in 1976). It is located in a province, Flevoland, which the Dutch reclaimed from the sea - as they did with so much of their land since medieval times.
Wilders, whose PVV was after his departure from the center-right VVD for a long time a one-man project, expressly decided to participate in only two municipalities because the PVV still lacks screened, suitable candidates for local mandates nationwide - a problem which has its cause to a great extent in the severely reduced mobility of Mr. Wilders.
The results are promising. In June, the Dutch go once again to the poll booths, but for parliamentary elections. If today's results would be extrapolated to the whole of The Netherlands, the PVV would become, with 24 of the 150 seats in Parliament, the country's third largest party, after the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Labour (PvdA).
Over at The Brussels Journal, Paul Belien has a succinct but insightful column on the events in The Netherlands:
"...Yesterday’s local elections in the Netherlands resulted in a victory for the Freedom Party (PVV) of opposition leader Geert Wilders. On June 9th the Dutch will again be called to the voting booths for the general elections. Yesterday’s outcome reinforces the PVV’s momentum, which may result in a political landslide next June with repercussions all over Europe.
In yesterday’s local elections – the first ever in which Wilders’ party, established as recently as 2007, participated – the PVV became the biggest party in Almere and the second party in The Hague, two of the country’s major cities. The PVV won 21.6% of the votes in Almere and 16.9% in The Hague. The parties of the left had mobilized Muslim immigrants to come out and vote against Wilders. Many of them did so.
The Hague and Almere were the only two municipalities where the PVV fielded candidates for yesterday’s local elections. The PVV would also have done well in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other cities, but decided not to run there. Wilders is leading a young party which still lacks a solid local structure. Rather than concentrating on quantity and fielding candidates wherever he could, even if he was not sure about the candidates’ background and talents, Wilders concentrated on quality. He could not afford to take the risk that in the three months remaining until June 9th, local PVV newcomers might discredit the PVV’s good reputation.
Wilders is a shrewd but cautious political strategist. He has learned from the experience of the LPF, the party of the late Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. In many respects Fortuyn stood for the same ideas as Wilders. After Fortuyn’s assassination the LPF fell apart in quarrelling factions. In 2007 the party lost its 8 seats in Parliament, while the PVV gained 9 seats in the first parliamentary elections in which it participated.
A poll taken yesterday by Dutch state television NOS predicts that Wilders will gain 24 of the 150 parliamentary seats next June. This would make the PVV the third biggest party in the country, after the Christian-Democrats (CDA) of the current Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, and Labour. There are, however, other polls, such as the De Hond poll, which many consider to be the Netherlands’ most respected, which predicted yesterday that the PVV is to become the biggest party with 27 seats..."
The following video contains some general information:
And this one the victory speech held by Mr. Wilders in Almere:
We should still be cautious. It is possible that a Grand Operation Damage Wilders is in the scaffolds. Actually the trial against Wilders is already part of that operation.
But we should nevertheless be glad with today's success - there is reason for optimism!