(Bloomberg) -- Dutch far-right populist Geert Wilders jumped to first place in the latest survey ahead of elections on Wednesday, setting the stage for him to enter government.
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His Freedom Party is projected to gain 28 seats in parliament, just one seat more than the two parties currently tied for second place, according to an I&O Research poll published Tuesday.
The surge comes on the heels of recent televised debates featuring Wilders, who promotes anti-Muslim views and has lived under police protection for two decades following death threats.
The controversial politician stands to benefit from the political vacuum created by Mark Rutte’s decision to quit politics after 13 years in office as the country’s longest-serving premier. His coalition fell apart over refugee policy with Wilders stoking anti-immigration sentiment.
Rutte’s liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, which is now led by current justice minister Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius and the alliance of the Green Left and Labor parties are narrowly trailing Wilders, according to the poll. Popular lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt’s newly-launched center-right New Social Contract party dropped to fourth place from second earlier this week.
Other parties have typically rejected the idea of working with the Freedom Party, which came third in the 2021 vote. The far-right party was not polling strongly over the summer but Yesilgoz-Zegerius opened a door for Wilders by not ruling out a partnership to form a government. She has given mixed signals this week since the surge in support for Wilders.
Still, even if Wilders’ party wins Wednesday’s election, he is seen unlikely to gather enough support from other parties to form a coalition as the country’s next prime minister.
(Updates with new poll published on Tuesday)
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