Behind the Surprising Right-Wing Victories in Netherlands and Argentina

The past week saw two surprising election results. Though in very different parts of the world – Netherlands and Argentina – they shared key similarities. 

Both figures were seen as representing unreasonable, fringe positions right up until they were actually elected. And both are making plenty of noise about shaking things up, while leaving doubt about how realistic their plans actually are.

In Netherlands, Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom won the largest primary vote at 23.6%. They won substantially more backing than the second-placed green-left coalition (15.7%) and the party of the former, centre-right government (15.2%). 

The result means right and centre-right parties make up an easy majority in the Dutch lower house of parliament.

Wilders is a long-time anti-Islam campaigner and enthusiast of Mohammed cartoon publishing. He presents as a classical liberal who is “intolerant of the intolerant” and brands Islam as “totalitarian.” But he also supports intolerant figures like Modi and Netanyahu, simply because he sees them as sharing his fight against Islam.

In May 2023, the entirely new Farmer-Citizen Movement placed first in the Dutch Senate elections, on a platform pushing back against EU environmental regulations designed to moderate intensive agriculture and fertiliser use. So the Wilders vote may be related to Hamas’s 7 October attack, which could be said to have shifted the right-wing vote from the Farmer-Citizen Movement to the Party for Freedom.

Aside from attacking Islam, Wilders is making noise about introducing labour and migration controls within the EU, reinvesting in coal power, and even leaving the EU altogether. But the centre-right coalition partners he will rely on to pass legislation will almost certainly stymie those goals.

Meanwhile in Argentina, self-proclaimed “outsider” Javier Milei won a 55% to 45% victory against the incumbent president.

A sort of right-wing version of former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, Milei is an aggressive TV presence and a former economics professor with multiple professional publications in his field. 

His philosophy could be described as anarcho-capitalist and libertarian. He once dressed up as his own superhero, “General Ancap” (yes, as seen in this story

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In one of his online videos, Milei bragged about abolishing every government department in Argentina once elected.

In spite of concerns about his mental stability, Milei has become an instant favourite of the online “dissident right.” Particularly popular are his rants against “shit leftists”, bureaucrats and the state. 

What these supporters missed is Milei’s attendance at World Economic Forum meetings at Davos, where the far-right alleges most of the world’s evil conspiracies are concocted.

The reality is Milei will most likely be yet another Latin American neoliberal, who rebuilds good credit with international finance by slashing taxes and the social services relied upon by the desperately poor.

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