Two weeks before the Dutch go to the polls, the far-right Party of Freedoms (PVV) has a convincing lead over Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). However, Geert Wilders is losing ground.
The far-right loses momentum
The latest poll published by Peil on Sunday, February 26, gives Wilders a 29% lead over Rutte’s 25%. However, by any count, Wilders has lost momentum.
The last six Peil polls give the far-right PVV a lead but in suggest a decline in absolute numbers since the beginning of February. On January 29th, Peil gave Wilders 33%, dropping to 32% on February 5, 30% on February 12, and 29% since February 29. That means a loss of 4-to-5% in a month.
Ipsos marked a 4% lead for PVV on February 2, which was reduced to 1% by February 16. By February 23, according to Ipsos, the ruling VVD had a small 2% lead over the far-right PVV. That confirms Wilders has lost 4-5%.
Polarizing the political debate, in theory, benefits the Wilders camp by regimenting its key electorate, triggering extreme political reactions, and keeping the attention on him.
One week ago, Wilders pulled out from a leaders’ debate with Prime Minister Rutte, calling the host channel, RTL Nieuws, “scum.” That was in response to an interview with the TV channel with his brother who does not share his ideology. “Scum” is also the word he used to refer to Moroccan-Dutch, at the launch of his electoral campaign on February 18.
Last Thursday he also pulled out from public events in his electoral campaign, allegedly because he fears for his life. The issue emerged last week when a member of his security detail was arrested for supposed information leaks. It transpires the man was merely boasting of his work to his girlfriend, but the Dutch police are profiling his whole security team to ensure there are no pending issues. The government has said that they regret Wilders pulling out from the campaign, but remain convinced he is safe.
However, polarisation does not lead to the surge of support for two particular parties but to greater fragmentation. Given the dramatic losses for the ruling VVD and their junior coalition partner PvdA, the formation of a government will require a broader coalition. The more Wilders slides to extremes, the more legitimate a compromise becomes.