This Wednesday, Dutch citizens will go to the polls in a general election that will take the temperature not just of the Netherlands, but of the EU. All eyes are on Geert Wilders, the leader the anti-immigration anti-EU Freedom Party, who is hoping to capitalise on the backlash against global elites that led to the Brexit and Donald Trump’s win. Will this be the latest victory for anti-establishment populism? We’ve asked four experts in Dutch politics to give us their thoughts on what we can expect once the results come in.

Sacha Hilhorst

Dutch politics is coalition politics. Folk wisdom has it the Dutch needed to band together to fight the sea – resulting in a “spirit of accommodation” which has outlasted any serious threat from the water. As many have pointed out, the Dutch mode of coalition politics will likely keep Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party (PVV) out of the cabinet. He will win, but not govern.

Yet on the whole, coalition politics has been good for Geert Wilders. It makes it easy to claim, as he does, that political parties are all the same. Wilders is most vulnerable on traditional social policy issues, which divide his base. But after four years of a left-right coalition, the centre-left cannot convincingly challenge him there. Some of the most effective attacks on the PVV have come from the far-left Socialist Party, painting Wilders as pro-austerity and pro-multinational. But with Wilders avoiding the television debates, his opponents are unlikely to land many blows. No one seems set to score a decisive victory.

Which brings us back to forming coalitions. If negotiations break down repeatedly, political leaders might be tempted to take back earlier promises,”‘in the national interest”. And then, suddenly, anything is possible.

Sacha Hilhorst is a contributor for De Groene Amsterdammer, a leading Dutch weekly.

Denis MacShane

In matters of politics, the fault of the Dutch is talking big but doing not much. I hope I may be forgiven for a slight re-write of a famous couplet on the Dutch and commerce, but the good/bad news from the Dutch political front is that there will be no surprise.

Geert Wilders is now down to an estimated 22 seats or about 15 per cent of the electorate, down from 36 per cent earlier this year. In other words Wilders is below where Marine Le Pen is, or even the sad, benighted Labour Party chez nous.

Of course his Islamaphobic hate rants cause non-Dutch speaking journalists to quiver with thrills but the Netherlands will remain a complex coalition patchwork of different political forces. There will be enough out of the 150 MPs elected on March 15th to form a coalition government to keep the Netherlands firmly in the EU, using the Euro and a loyal ally of Berlin and Brussels on all questions Brexit.

The bad news for Europhobes is that Wilders and Le Pen are not about to be elected and bust up the EU. The good news for pro-Europeans is that a pro-EU government in one of the EU member states the closest to our traditions and values will be returned to power. Tijd om Nederlands te leren, mevrouw May!

Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Minister of Europe and a senior advisor at Avisa Partners in Brussels. In January 2015 he published Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe (IB Tauris).

Robert Valentine

All the major polls in the Netherlands showed the same thing: Geert Wilders from the populist Freedom Party would win. But in the last couple of weeks he has been losing ground. What was a big lead in the polls has shrunk to within the margin of error.

People are tired of old politics and are choosing an option which to them represents breaking with the old. We saw the same with Brexit and Trump, and the Netherlands seems no exception.

But with 73 per cent of the electorate saying they are considering more than one party, we have no way of telling who will be the biggest. The other party leading in the polls is that of prime minister, Mark Rutte. Even though his has been the party with the most breaches of integrity for the fifth year in a row (two ministers, a secretary of state and the chairman of parliament had to step down recently), it does not really seem to be suffering more in the polls then it already has in the last year. Then there’s the GroenLinks (Green Party), which also has record high poll numbers, and strategic voters are on the prowl. Anything could happen on March 15th.

Robert Valentine is the president of the Dutch Libertarian Party (LP). 

Marjelle Boorsma

In Dutch politics we make a lot of compromises. We have our own word for it: polderen. It means you have to work closely with your opponent to achieve the things you believe in. On the other hand, this means that you can’t always achieve the things you promised during the election because you have to make a compromise with parties with different opinions.

At this very moment the PvdA (left-wing Labour Party) and VVD (centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) are governing. The elections of 2012 were a race between those two parties and that’s why they did so well; many people voted strategically for one or the other of them to prevent the other from governing. Now, almost five years later, both parties will lose a lot of voters as this is no longer a race between two main parties. There are five or six parties all relatively close in the polls.

Because of this, I believe it will be polderen again. A lot of parties have ruled out working with the right-wing PVV to after the elections. The PVV (Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party) is expected to win big, but they won’t have enough votes or parties willing to cooperate with them to form a government. I expect four or perhaps even five parties in the middle range which will have to form a coalition government. This means a completely different playing field compared to our parliament at the moment, but I don’t expect much difference in the course of the country. Different parties – some a little left-wing, some a little right-wing – will have to work together, and make compromises in the middle.

Marjelle Boorsma is a board member and spokesman of FNV Jong (young). FNV is the biggest labour union of the Netherlands with more then a million members. Marjelle represents the voice of young people on education and labour topics both inside the FNV and externally towards politicians and media.