Wilders gains electoral springboard

Searchlight April 2010

The rabidly Islamophobic Dutchright-wing populist Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) gained a partial breakthrough in council elections in the Netherlands on 3 March.

In the elections, more than 12 million voters could cast their votes for 8,900 seats in 394 towns and villages but all eyes were focused on just two locations: Almere, a relatively new city of 200,000 inhabitants and the political capital of the Netherlands, The Hague, the only places where the PVV stood candidates.

This clever strategy of the PVV's leader Geert Wilders, guaranteed his one-man party almost permanent media attention and minimised the risk of any heavy reverses. Wilders sent his allies and fellow parliamentarians Sietse Fritsma and Raymond van Roon to head the PVV's lists in The Hague and Almere, respectively, and, on the day, which saw the lowest ever turnout, the PVV became the biggest party in Almere, taking 9 seats on the 39-seat council. Though it won these seats, the PVV's vote was not as big as the polls had predicted and, compared with the percentage it won in the European Elections in Almere last year, it actually fell.

In The Hague, meanwhile, the party came second, with 8 seats on the 45-seat council, just two behind the Social Democrats (PvdA) but, again, less than the percentage it gained in the EU poll. The PvdA immediately excluded the PVV from any coalition talks while Wilders, for his part, overturned an earlier decision not to take his seat on The Hague city council.

The rest of the non-mainstream right had mixed fortunes. In Rotterdam, the right-wing populist party of the late Pim Fortuyn, Livable Rotterdam, in its way the predecessor of the PVV, matched the PvdA with 14 seats following an unprecedented recount of the votes and amid complaints of possible fraud by voters and unlawful acquisition voting passes by a Livable Rotterdam councillor. The PvdA remained the largest party by a margin of several hundred votes and has refused to cooperate with Livable Rotterdam in governing The Netherlands' second biggest city.

In the shadows, the right-wing populist Proud of the Netherlands (TON) participated in over 40 cities and towns and won more than 50 seats. Despite some revelations about known right-wing extremists who were subsequently removed among its ranks the movement, led by former Integration and Immigration minister Rita Verdonk, has established itself on a local level but is forecast to win no seats in polls for the June elections.

The nazis of the Dutch People's Union (NVU) tried to win a seat to secure an income for their party leader Constant Kusters, but failed in the four places they stood, not even managing to notch up a thousand votes. A row later broke out about the NVU's future on the fascist internet forum Stormfront and the NVU has now decided to skip public demonstrations for an undisclosed period.

During the campaign the Dutch secret service warned all mayors in the country, in a 2-pages public note, about supposed plans by Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) to disrupts meetings of the PVV, some local right wing parties and TON. This led to some bizarre responses from some of TON's local candidates claiming they were being threatened by AFA.

Even when local youngsters in Almere threatened shopkeepers who gave publicity to parties other than the PVV no doubt practicing what the PVV preaches about establishing "city-commandos" to restore order PVV candidate Raymond de Roon still blamed AFA for the threats.

As a result of the collapse of the Dutch government in February over withdrawal of the military mission in Afghanistan, the council elections were more dominated by national issues that will be voted on again in a General Election on 9 June.

Meanwhile, the PVV has called for a ban on Muslim headscarves in state institutions and places subsidised by local councils and made clear that, if it wins the election, this will be non-negotiable. At the same time, Wilders has announced that is willing to participate in governing the country but will not back down on keeping the retirement age at 65 and not 67 as proposed by the outgoing government.

Boosted by his successes in Almere and The Hague, Wilders travelled to London again on 5 March, invited by UKIP leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch, to show his video clip Fitna at the House of Lords. During the press conference Wilders, who sees himself as the next Dutch Prime Minister, ranted against the prophet Mohammed as "a barbarian, mass murderer and paedophile" and lambasted Islam per se as "violent, dangerous and retarded" and as "a fascist ideology". The Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Erdogan was insulted as "a total freak" and the leaders of Turkey were called 'mentally sick'.

Islamophobia fact file

  • 1998: right-wing liberal leader Frits Bolkestein says Islam challenges "Western values'.

  • 2000: Social Democrat columnist Paul Scheffer joins anti-Islamic clamour with a high impact article called "The multicultural drama".

  • After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, most attacks take place against individual Muslims, Islamic schools, Mosques in the Netherlands compared with other European countries.

  • Right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn seizes the opportunity and enters politics with a new party after publishing a book titled Against the Islamisation of the Netherlands.

  • 2002: Fortuyn's party in Rotterdam wins elections with 17 seats on tough anti-Muslim programme.

  • 2002: Just before parliamentary elections, Fortuyn is murdered and further attacks on Muslims and Islamic institutions take place.

  • 2004: Directly after film maker Theo van Gogh's murder by a radical Muslim, arson attacks on mosques and Islamic schools take place all over the country.

  • 2004: After the murder, former right-wing liberal parliamentarian Geert Wilders launches the anti-Islam party Freedom Party (PVV).

  • November 2006: Wilders' PVV enters the 150-seat parliament with 9 seats, demanding 5-year stop to non-Western immigration, a 5-year ban on building mosques and warning of a "Tsunami of Islam" drowning The Netherlands.

  • August 2007: Wilders calls for a ban on the the Koran and compares it with Hitler's Mein Kampf.

  • March 2008: Wilders' posts Fitna video clip on the internet and then tours Europe, the US and Israel, promoting himself as the "Emperor of Free speech".

  • September 2008: The PVV calls for the Dutch army to return from Afghanistan "to restore order in the streets of the Netherlands" after incidents involving Dutch-Moroccan youth.

  • June 2009: The PVV wins 4 of the 25 Dutch seats in the European Parliament. In the same month Wilders tells Danish television he will deport "millions, tens of millions" of Muslims from Europe.

  • September 2009: Wilders calls in Dutch parliament for a tax on "headrags" (Islamic headscarves).

  • March 2010: The PVV wins local elections in Almere and The Hague.

  • Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net in Amsterdam