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Netherlands votes for first new PM in 13 years

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, the leader of the PVV party, speaks during the final debate between the lead candidates in the Dutch election before polls open on Wednesday, in The Hague, Netherlands, November 21, 2023.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, the leader of the PVV party, speaks during the final debate between the lead candidates in the Dutch election before polls open on Wednesday, in The Hague, Netherlands, November 21, 2023.

REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

The Dutch head to the polls tomorrow to elect their first new prime minister in over a decade. The election has centered on immigration, living standards, climate change, and how conservative the next government will be.

The election was called after outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right government imploded over how to reduce the flow of migrants to the Netherlands – a polarizing issue collapsing centrist coalitions across Europe.

A majority of voters support right-leaning parties. Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party, or PVV, made last-minute gains to take a lead the polls. Wilders has built his career on barring Muslim asylum-seekers from the Netherlands, and his rhetoric has gained traction since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius – another frontrunner from the current PM’s party – is also running on reducing immigration in order to limit the war’s security risks to European countries.

The results are still too close to call. As of this week, 63% of voters remained undecided. Left-wing parties are urging their supporters to strategically vote centrist to block a PVV-led government. Accordingly, Wilders moderated his stances in the last debate, which may have contributed to his last-minute gains.

But the real fun starts after the votes are counted: None of the candidates are expected to get more than 20% of the vote, so the parties must decide what compromises they are willing to make to form a government.

If a hard right coalition is formed, they would seek to radically restrict immigration. A centrist government would follow through on the previous government's plans to increase social spending and renewable energy. A left-wing coalition, meanwhile, would raise taxes on the wealthy and supercharge the adoption of the EU’s green deal that its likely leader, Frans Timmermans, spearheaded as EU climate commissioner.

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