The election success of far-right Islamophobe, Geert Wilders, sends shockwaves across the Muslim and Liberal communities in the Netherlands
Geert Wilders, the founder and leader of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV), has delivered a shock result in the Dutch national elections by doubling the number of seats won by his group in past elections. Securing a surprise 37 seats, he emerged way ahead of all of the other major parties contesting the Dutch elections. His nearest rival was the Green Left-Labour Party Alliance (GL/PvdA) achieved the second highest number of seats with 25. Behind them was the liberal-conservative Party for Freedom and Democracy, whose leader Mark Rutte, has been the Prime Minister of the Netherlands since 2010. Rutte’s party was only able to secure 24 seats.
Muslims no longer feel safe in the Netherlands
On hearing the results of the election, Habib El Kaddouri, Head of the Association for Dutch Moroccans said:
‘The distress and the fear are enormous. Wilders is known for his ideas about Muslims and Moroccans. We are afraid that he will portray us as second-class citizens. I don’t know if Muslims are still safe in the Netherlands. I am worried about this country’
The latest election was called in Holland, after the collapse of the Rutte government in 2022, due to its failure to obtain consensus from its coalition partners on proposals to deal with record levels of migration – an issue which has come to dominate the agenda in many countries in Europe.
Geert Wilders has been at the forefront of an unrelenting campaign to restrict migration and against Islam – describing the religion as ‘backward’ and linking Islam to terrorism. He has made the need to control migration a central plank of his election campaign and has said that he wants to ‘de-Islamise’ the Netherlands. Wilder’s party manifesto openly promotes a ban on mosques, the Qur’an and Islamic headscarves in government buildings.
His phenomenal success in the elections on this occasion, has been attributed to his toning down in public of his anti-Islam rhetoric. Instead, he chose to focus on the hot topic of immigration, which he has carefully linked to the housing crisis and the poor state of the Dutch health service.
Far-right leaders from across Europe line up to praise PVV's success
Other far- right and nationalist political figures across Europe wasted no time in sending their tributes to the Wilders in respect of his success at the polls. Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, issued a statement, which read:
‘The winds of change are here! Congratulations to Geert Wilders on winning the Dutch elections!’
France’s notorious nationalist, far-right leader, Marie Le Pen, said:
‘Congratulations to Geert Wilders and the PVV for their spectacular performance in the legislative elections which confirms the growing attachment to the defence of national identities. It is because there are people who refuse to see the national torch extinguished that the hope for change remains alive in Europe.’
The Belgian Far-right, high profile figure and leader of the Vlaams Belang Party, Tom Van Grieken, announced his public support and congratulations to Wilders. He said:
‘I would like to congratulate Geert Wilders on this victory. It is clear: the population is yearning for real change. Not only in the Netherlands, but also in Flanders. Parties like ours are coming all over Europe!’
Santiago Abascal, Leader of the Far-right Spanish Party, Vox, declared:
‘More and more Europeans demand in the streets and at the polls that their nations, their borders and their rights be defended’
Matteo Salvini, the Secretary of Italy’s Northern League Party and the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, also sent his congratulations. He said:
‘Congratulations to our friend Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV and historic ally of the League, for this extraordinary electoral victory. A new Europe is possible’
Anna Luehrmann, the German EU Minister, published a statement, which read:
‘The high level of support for anti-European forces in the Netherlands is bitter. All pro-Europeans must now work to ensure that this does not happen again in the European elections. Because Europe protects our freedom, our democracy, and our security’
'The fact that the PVV is the biggest party is a threat for a million Dutch Muslims'
There were a number of political figures that regard the shift towards support for far-right ideology as extremely worrying.
The European Green Party issued a statement, which read:
‘The election result is very worrying and marks a clear shift to the far-right in the Netherlands. All democratic parties of the political centre must now join forces and prevent the progression of extremist ideologies. With a view to the European elections, it is clear that we need to defend democratic principles and values even more strongly and urgently - in dialogue with the people and in public debates’
Even though it remains uncertain whether Geert Wilders will be able to form a coalition government - with him as Prime Minister, given that all of the major political parties have previously made clear that they will refuse to work with him, the size of his victory has ensured that Dutch Muslims are now deeply worried about what lies in store for them in the future.
Muhsin Köktas, from the Contact Body for Muslims and Government, said:
‘These election results are shocking for Dutch Muslims. We did not expect such a party with a programme that is against the basic principles of the rule of law to be so big’
Stephan van Baarle, the leader of the minority rights party 'Denk', was one political figure who made a point of not conforming to tradition by congratulating the PVV's success. Instead, he warned of the dangers of this result. Speaking on Dutch National TV, he said:
'The fact that the PVV is the biggest party is a threat for a million Dutch Muslims'
Gilders was banned from the UK in 2009 for his toxic views
Attempts were made in 2009 by the then UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to ban his visit to the UK and his attempt to screen an anti-Islam film, ‘Fitna’, which the Home Secretary declared to be a ‘danger to community harmony and public security. A letter delivered to him as his plane touched down at Heathrow airport and sent on behalf of Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, informed him that he was not welcome and declared that Wilders presence in the UK:
‘would pose a genuine, present and significantly serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society. The secretary of state is satisfied that your statements about Muslims and their beliefs, as expressed in the film and elsewhere, would threaten community harmony and therefore public safety in the UK’
Wilders had previously called for the Quran to be banned and had compared it to Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf. Despite the ban on Wilders entering the UK, which was later successfully appealed, the film was nevertheless screened by the two members of the House of Lords who had invited him – Lord Pearson and Baroness Cox. Pearson attempted to justify his decision to screen the film and to invite Wilders, on the basis he said, of free speech. His statement to the media at the time declared:
‘I think the man is raising one of the most important issues of our time, which is Islamic militarism, which is violent Jihad.
Earlier this year in February 2023, both Lord Pearson and Baroness Cox, were exposed for their involvement in providing a front in the UK parliament for known far-right groups. A leaked cache of documents published by anti-racist group ‘Hope not Hate’, revealed that both peers had been regularly meeting with far-right extremists ‘with the objective of opposing Islam through legislation but also on the streets of the UK’. The documents also indicated ‘that known far-right figures have written and edited questions to be asked in the House of Lords’, by both peers.
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