Searchlight - November 2010
After more than hundred days of intense talks, a new right-wing coalition government has finally emerged in The Netherlands which has not had a functioning government since February.
The period since June's elections has been an unprecedented one in Dutch political history in which the shape of the next government dominated the news and the public could follow step-by-step the struggle within the ranks of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDA) over the issue of cooperation with Geert Wilders' Islamphobic Freedom Party (PVV) which has 24 seats in the 150-seat parliament.
At the end of September, the right-wing liberal Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the CDA, which together hold 52 seats, finally signed a coalition agreement. To secure the 76-seat majority in parliament both parties also signed a “support” agreement with the PVV, making themselves unprecedentedly dependent on the latter.
In exchange for the PVV's backing, there will be stricter immigration controls, a ban on burqas, and conditional passports for new immigrants. This situation has met criticism from many leading figures in the Dutch political mainstream. For example, almost all former CDA prime ministers, including the oldest living CDA statesman, Piet de Jong, 85, have spoken out against the deal hacked out with Wilders.
The intensity of the coalition talks did not hinder Wilders from travelling to New York on 11 September to work on his international anti-Islam coalition by establishing a new network, the International Freedom Alliance (IFA). Together with allies from the United States, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, he plans to launch the network at the end of the year.
Wilders seemingly hopes to position his alliance in the political space between traditional conservative parties and the far right. He was invited by Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) which is led by the loony anti-Islam and anti-Obama blogger Pamela Geller, who also supports the racist thugs of the English Defence League.
Wilders became the keynote speaker, after some American politicians, as Republican Newt Gingrich, withdrew, at a demonstration to protest at the building of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero, the scene of the Islamist terror assault on the city in 2001. Wilders spoke surrounded by his entourage of Dutch bodyguards and immediately left the scene, not wanting to be seen with the “lunatic fringe” that had shown up.
His speech, however, had been long awaited by commentators in the Netherlands who thought it could jeopardize the PVV's chances of becoming part of a coalition. In the speech, Wilders raved about the 'Sharia' mosque, the triumphalism of Muslims that would result if it was built and falsely claimed that two-thirds of Dutch Muslims agreed with the terror attacks. Dutch commentators concluded that Wilders had toned down his radicalism because of his desire for power at home in the Netherlands.
In mid-September, it was revealed that Wilders' new adviser is the Belgian 'intellectual' Paul Belien. An extreme Flemish nationalist and conservative Catholic, Belien is married to right-wing extremist Vlaams Belang (VB) parliamentarian Alexandra Colen.
Wilders has always kept some distance from the VB hardcore led by Philip Dewinter and it is believed that Belien, who is also board member of the International Free Press Society (IFPS), has smoothed the path to links with some elements in the VB.
Belien, who writes for several newspapers, including the Washington Times, wrote in 2006 that immigrants are “predators” and that the Belgian people should “arm themselves”. He is also chief editor of the internet forum Islamist Watch which is run by Daniel Pipes, Wilders' American co-financer. Belien has also organised meetings for the VB and is virulently against gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. But, of course, the pro-gay principles of the Freedom Party are limited as an instrument against Islam, so Belien can afford to look the other way.
Wilders travelled to Germany, despite being roundly denounced by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, on 2 October, at the invitation of Berlin Christian Democrat expellee René Stadtkewitz, for a conference. On the same day over 4,000 Dutch Christian Democrats, in the biggest rally organised by a political party since the National Socialist Movement (NSB) during the Nazi-occupation, gathered in Arnhem to discuss the coalition and “support” agreements negotiated by their leaders. In a very heated atmosphere, followed live on television by 1.4 million people during the day, 68% voted in favour of the agreements and 32% against. A few days later, again after a long meeting, CDA's members of parliament, including dissidents, ratified the agreements and the new government was a fact.
Meanwhile, Wilders managed to anger German prime minister Angela Merkel, saying that “Islam was just as much a threat as communism and national socialism” and that “Germany couldn't look away just as in the thirties of the last century” and calling her a “coward” who does nothing about “the Muslim invasion because she needs their votes”.
As regards the coalition's final packet measures, in addition to tighter curbs on immigration and the rules on family reunion, asylum regulations will be drastically toughened. All these measures are part of the support agreement with the Freedom Party.
Wilders and his PVV regard the coalition deal as a triumph. While not in the government, they will run it. This was made clear at a press conference with the three party leaders, Wilders immediately distancing himself from the motto of the government “Freedom and Responsibility” and promising a 50% reduction of immigration, a statistic that that cannot be found in the agreements. Wilders also stated he will continue his struggle against the “Islamisation of the Netherlands”. On 4 October, “kingmaker” Wilders, the fan of tough law and order measures, found himself back in court in Amsterdam, accused of inciting hatred.
Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net in Amsterdam