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Islamophobe Greet Wilders, the new Dutch PM?

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Islamophobe Greet Wilders, the new Dutch PM?

Last week’s elections in Netherlands threw up a rather surprising victory i.e. Greet Wilders, a known rightist and Islamophobe. Perhaps his victory marks the continuing trend of right-wing politicians coming to power in Europe, particularly during the last two years, on the basis of appealing to the masses on populist slogans, but offering nothing concrete.

Last week, veteran Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders vowed to be prime minister of the Netherlands eventually, following an election in which his party won the most seats. Wilders vowed on X, “I will be prime minister.”

In a long post on X, he expressed frustration at other parties for their apparent unwillingness to cooperate with his Freedom Party (PVV), Wilders said he would “continue to moderate” his positions if necessary to gain power.

Although Wilders’ party finished well ahead of rivals in the November 22 vote on an anti-immigration platform, his party won only 37 seats in the Dutch parliament. That means he will have to cooperate with at least two more moderate parties in order to form a government.

Earlier, the conservative VVD Party, of caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, which shares many of Wilders’ views on immigration, said it would not participate in a cabinet with him. However the VVD’s new leader, Dilan Yesilgoz, did not rule out offering outside support to a Wilders-led government.

Pieter Omtzigt, who leads the centrist reform NSC Party and is also seen as a likely partner in a Wilders’ government, has said cooperation will be difficult due to extreme positions Wilders has voiced that appear to violate Dutch constitutional protections on freedom of religion.

Wilders’ stand on Islam
Geert Wilders is known for his radical anti-immigration and Islamophobic politics and his staunch Euro-scepticism.

In 2007, Wilders sent a letter to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant calling the Qur’an a “fascist book” just like Mein Kampf. The newspaper put the letter on the front page but in an editorial suggested that the PVV leader had gone too far with the comparison, which was deeply hurtful and offensive to many. This letter and other comments led to Wilders being prosecuted for inciting hatred and discrimination. He denied any wrongdoing. In 2011, he was acquitted and his comments ruled acceptable within the context of public debate.

In a 2008 interview with the Observer, Wilders said that Islam is not a religion; it’s an ideology, the ideology of a retarded culture. The interview coincided with him creating a short film entitled Fitna, an Arabic word meaning “strife”. In the film he again criticises the Holy Qur’an as a “fascist book” and intersperses images of the September 11 attacks with quotations from the Islamic holy book. It was screened on the internet and sparked violent protests in the Muslim world. In February 2009, Wilders was refused entry to Britain to screen the film on the grounds of it being a threat to public order. Wilders, who denied any wrongdoing, appealed, and a court later said the decision was wrong. The Dutch public prosecutor stated that statements made in it were “hurtful and offensive to a large number of Muslims” but not punishable by law. The episode subsequently became part of the 2011 case.

Wilders coined the word “Head Rag” to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. In the Netherlands’ annual political debates in September 2009, Wilders suggested an annual tax of €1,000 on headscarves, provoking a scandalised reaction. His position on headscarves, and talks on Turkish accession to Europe, had led him to break with the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and set up the PVV, or “Party for Freedom”, in 2005.

On immigration, Wilders stands for decreasing and clubs it with Moroccans, whom he describes as “scum” migrating to Netherlands and delivered a speech at The Hague in 2014 condemning migration. In a lengthy prosecution, which he claimed was politically motivated; this speech was eventually ruled as unlawful discrimination in terms of insulting a group. It resulted in a criminal record for Wilders but he was acquitted of inciting discrimination and given no other penalty.

From calling Moroccans “scum”, to holding competitions for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Wilders has built a career based on his self-appointed mission to stop an “Islamic invasion” of the West.

Wilders also condemns the Dutch democracy and has stated that there is an enormous gap between this fake Dutch parliament and common people at large. Talking in the 2015 budget debates, Wilders argued for a closure of the borders and questioned Dutch democracy because MPs did not agree with him. He also wants The Netherlands to leave the EU, just like the UK.

Moreover, Wilders pledges to close the Dutch representation in Ramallah, home to the “corrupt Palestinian Authority.” He also describes Israel as the only true democracy in the Middle East and has stated that once in power he’ll ensure Dutch relations with Israel are strengthened and will move the Dutch embassy to Jerusalem.

Dutch politics
The Netherlands is known for low corruption, press freedom and moderation, but for the past two decades it has witnessed a rising support for far-right parties. Prof Tom Louwerse of Leiden University’s Institute of Political Science, told The Guardian that the Dutch far right has polled on average 15% to 20% votes in the past decade. Prof Matthijs Rooduijn of Amsterdam University told a Dutch news website localnews.com that he sees the election as a “breeding ground for right-wing populism”.

Although Wilders is extremely right wing on immigration, he has populist policies on healthcare, pensions, the minimum wage and social housing. “The electorate of the PVV in general consists of people who experience more difficulties,” said Rooduijn. “They feel they are being neglected. They have tough lives, economically but also culturally. And that is one of the reasons they vote for a party that promises radical change.”

But will this radical change happen? Wilders has won the most seats and been invited to try to form a coalition. But the Dutch representative democracy and the process of electing a coalition PM is very complicated. And it could take months for him to be chosen the prime minister.

Overall, the Dutch elections may serve as an indication of the increasing right-wing sentiments in Western Europe. The far right has grown throughout much of Europe in the past decade. Giorgia Meloni of Brothers of Italy rode to power last year, the National Rally led by Marine Le Pen came second in the 2022 French presidential election polls, and the Alternative for Germany party is currently polling second.

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