Wilders and Le Pen didn't 'unanimously' win recent elections

By: Nikolaj Kristensen
May 22 2024

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Wilders and Le Pen didn't 'unanimously' win recent elections

(Source: Facebook/Screenshot)


The Verdict Misleading

Neither Wilders nor Le Pen unanimously won the elections. They both got around a quarter of the votes. Le Pen didn’t even finish first.

Claim ID c70daaf4

What is the claim? 

A recent Facebook post claims the political establishment is curbing the people's will all across Europe and that Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders unanimously won recent elections.

"Six months ago, the people of the Netherlands unanimously voted this man to lead their country—and using the PR voting system," wrote a Facebook user sharing a picture of Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch far-right PVV party. The user added that since then, Wilders had been prevented from forming a government. 

According to the post, a similar ploy had allegedly been worked in France. "In round one of the last French elections (using PR), the French people unanimously voted for Marie Le Pen to be THEIR next leader, but guess what? In round two, the opposition liberal, Socialist, and Far-Left parties clubbed together to prevent her from seizing power and denied the French people their choice as leader," it said.  

However, the post is wrong on several points. 

In fact

Geert Wilders' PVV party did get the most votes in last fall's Dutch general elections. However, Jerfi Uzman, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Amsterdam, told Logically Facts that the victory was by no means unanimous. 

"Saying that the Dutch electorate has unanimously voted Mr. Wilders to lead the country is ridiculous. Mr. Wilders Freedom Party (PVV) received 2,450,878 votes out of a total of 10,432,726 votes cast. This is roughly 23.5 percent of the votes. This means that 76.5 percent voted for other political parties. Under the system of PR these votes translate into 113 seats in Parliament (not going to the PVV). Needless to say, this can hardly be called unanimity," he said. 

Tom Louwerse, associate professor in political science at Leiden University, agreed.

"T​​his claim is incorrect. In the 2023 elections, 23.5 percent of Dutch voters voted for a candidate from the PVV. This resulted in 37 out of 150 seats (24.7 percent). This is thus not 'unanimous,' nor does it represent an absolute majority," he told Logically Facts.

Louwerse added that in the Netherlands, there are only parliamentary elections, no elections for the government's leadership, and no party has ever won a majority of the vote or of the seats in Parliament. Thus, no party has been able to form a government on its own since proportional representation, abbreviated in the Facebook post as "PR," was introduced in 1917.   

"It is correct to characterize the electoral system as PR, but precisely for that reason, the elections usually do not result in a single party winning a majority of the seats," he said.

Charles Pattie, a professor of politics and international relations at the University of Sheffield, told Logically Facts, "A candidate or party would only win 'unanimously' if every single voter voted for them, as in they got 100 percent of the vote — which just never happens in a democracy.

"One COULD argue that Wilders' PVV was the most popular party at the 2023 Dutch election (no other party took as many votes). But even then, three-quarters of voters did not support Wilders/PVV," he said. 

Similarly, Marine Le Pen of the right-wing National Rally did not unanimously win the most recent presidential election in France in 2022. With her 23.2 percent vote share, she didn't even finish first. 

"Le Pen was not the most popular candidate in the first round. She was beaten by Emmanuel Macron, whose first-round vote was 27.9 percent. So even if we just talk about 'who got the largest vote share in the first round,' Macron was the winner, not Le Pen," said Pattie. 

What is 'PR' exactly?

"PR systems vary in their details, but the common feature is that seats in Parliament are awarded in proportion to the vote share won (hence proportional representation)," Robert Ford, a professor of political science at the University of Manchester, told Logically Facts. 

While the Dutch electoral system can indeed be characterized as proportional representation, this is not the case when the French elect their president. 

"The electoral system used for the French Presidential election is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a PR system," Pattie said. "It is a majoritarian two-round run-off system: if any candidate gets over half the vote on Round 1, that candidate is automatically elected; if no candidate at Round 1 gets over 50 percent of the vote, a second run-off round is held between the two top candidates from Round 1 - and in that second round, the candidate getting over 50 percent automatically wins," he said.

Ford said that in the Netherlands, by tradition, the party with the largest share of seats gets to have the first attempt at forming a governing coalition, which must command a majority of votes in the Parliament. "That is what has been happening in the Netherlands since the election. It seems the only way to build a coalition with such a majority is if Wilders himself is not Prime Minister, so he has stepped aside from this role." 

Last week, Wilders announced that his PVV party would form a government with the Farmer Citizen Movement (BBB), the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), and the centrist New Social Contract (NSC) party. At the time of writing, the coalition has yet to pick a prime minister. 

The verdict

Neither Wilders nor Le Pen unanimously won the elections claimed in the Facebook post. Wilders' PVV party secured 23.5 percent of the vote in the 2023 Dutch general elections, resulting in 37 of 150 seats in Parliament. Le Pen finished second in the first round of the 2022 French presidential elections with 23.2 percent of the votes to Macron's 27.9 percent. The French presidential election is not a proportional representation system. Therefore, we have marked this claim as misleading. 

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