Dutch voters are coming at the polls next Wednesday to participate in elections predicted to be lopsided, according to opinion polls, and expected to transform the country’s political landscape.

After 13 years with Mark Rutte as prime ministerthe Dutch appear poised to elect either the country’s first female prime minister or an anti-corruption “crusader” who founded a party only a few months ago.

“Anyone who claims to know who will win the election is blatantly lying,” political analyst Julia Waters told AFP.

What seems certain, however, is that a new face will now lead the Netherlands – the fifth largest economy in the EU.

Rutte’s successor the center-right VVD party is led by Dilan Gesilgioz, a 46-year-old Turkish-born politician who arrived in the Netherlands at a young age as an asylum seeker and who now he wants to limit immigration.

“I came to this country as an eight-year-old refugee and I know what it means to seek freedom and security,” she told AFP at a recent election rally.

As she said, the influx of asylum seekers, combined with workers from other countries and foreign students today, is “too high”.

“We need to reduce this number in order to have a safe place for real refugees,” he added.

Experienced in media relations, Gesilgioz entertains her Instagram followers by posting pictures of her dogs and is a constant presence on Dutch political talk shows.

But her critics say she is struggling to articulate clear policies and explain how she will govern differently from Rutte, who is reportedly embroiled in scandals.

“The main challenge … is the perception that the party’s election campaign lacks substance,” Sarah de Lange, a politics professor at the University of Amsterdam, told AFP.

“Gesilgioz emphasizes that she will do things differently without going into details about what the key measures will be,” she emphasizes.

Chest to chest mWith Gesilgioz’s VVD comes a newly formed party, the New Social Capital (NSC), founded by the charismatic Peter Omczyt.

The 49-year-old multilingual with studies in Britain and Italy has caused a political earthquake with his initiative to clean up the country’s politics.

“We have had many political failures in recent years in the Netherlands,” he said in an interview with AFP.

“…Omissions and oversights… and to fix that we need reforms, including a partial reform of the Dutch state,” added Omchicht, who also takes a hard line on immigration.

He is known for fighting corruption at home and in Europe, but voters face a huge question mark: he has made it clear he does not want to be prime minister if his party wins.

“For me it is secondary who becomes prime minister or even a minister,” he said, not ruling out the possibility of appointing a prime minister who is not even on the NSC ballot.

Political analyst Guters explains that for many Dutch people, Omchicht is “a kind of Messiah” on a mission to reform the Netherlands.

“He’s basically a national hero, but a lot of people don’t know what he really stands for,” he said.

–Is the government honest? —

In the polls, just behind these two candidates is former European Commissioner Frans Timmermansthe “architect” of the EU Green Deal, who leads a joint Greens/Labour coalition.

Far-right Geert Wilders of the PVV is also a candidate. Support for his anti-immigration, anti-EU message is solid and, crucially, he has won the consent of Gesilgioz for a possible coalition.

A farmers’ party (BBB) ​​that emerged from protests against measures to curb nitrogen emissions and which scored a landslide victory in the Senate election earlier this year appears to have lost its dynamism, according to opinion polls.

Voters say the top issues are immigration, the housing crisis, health care and living standards.

But political reform is also decisive, a strong card in Omchicht’s hands.

“The most important issue for many Dutch voters right now is how we are governed,” explains Wouters.

The November 22 election will be the start of a long period of negotiations between the parties to form a workable coalition with each of the 150 seats in parliament crucial.

The last few days will be critical, estimates Tom Luvers, professor of political science at Leiden University.

“Ten to 15% of voters make up their minds on Election Day. About 30% make up their minds a few days before.”