Patricia De Melo Moreira Agence France-Presse Geert Wilders and his peroxide mane have been in the Dutch political landscape for decades. His anti-immigration message, including closing borders and deporting illegal immigrants, appears to have resonated with voters.
Geert Wilders' Islamophobic Dutch far-right party won parliamentary elections on Wednesday, exit polls suggest, in a political earthquake that will be felt well beyond the Netherlands' borders.
The PVV (Freedom Party) won 35 seats and a comfortable electoral victory, according to the Ipsos poll. The left alliance of Frans Timmermans is second with 26 seats. The center-right VVD won 23 seats, according to the poll.
If confirmed by the final results, Mr. Wilders' victory marks a sharp shift to the right that will be greeted with apprehension in Brussels : the PVV has notably promised a referendum on the accession of the Netherlands to the European Union.
“It may not be what other parties in Europe or other countries are looking for, but hey, that’s democracy,” the 60-year-old politician said after casting his vote.< /p>
His anti-immigration message, including closing borders and deporting illegal immigrants, appears to have resonated with Dutch voters.
But while Mr Wilders appears to have triumphed in the polls, it is not certain that he will succeed in forming a government coalition.
The leaders of the three other main parties have assured that they will not participate in a coalition led by the PVV .
Kate Parker, of the Economist Intelligence Unit, said it would lead to a “constitutional impasse” in the EU's fifth-largest economy.
Geert Wilders and his peroxide mane have been in the Dutch political landscape for decades.
Not hesitating to call Moroccans “scum” or to propose caricature contests of the Prophet Muhammad, Mr. Wilders has built his career on a crusade against what he calls an “Islamic invasion” of the West.< /p>
Neither the troubles with the Dutch justice system – which found him guilty of insulting Moroccans – nor the death threats against him – which have made him live under police protection since 2004 – have discouraged.
“I don’t regret fighting for freedom,” Mr. Wilders told AFP in an interview on the eve of the 2021 elections.
“Of course I'm taking a stand, I'm being attacked, my country is being attacked. »
Mr. Wilders, who tried to smooth over some of his populist rhetoric and focus on other voter concerns, ended up exceeding expectations.
There are “bigger issues than “fighting the flood of asylum seekers and immigrants,” he said in one of the final election debates, adding that he was willing to put aside his views on Islam to govern .
If immigration remained a key subject of the campaign, the Dutch are even more worried about “knowing whether they still have more money left in their wallets”, he insisted.
< p>He promised to focus more on “security and health care” than on his opposition to Islam.
He assured after voting in front of journalists in The Hague that he would be Prime Minister for “everyone in the Netherlands, regardless of religion, origin, gender or otherwise.”
But the PVV manifesto retained its trademark xenophobic tone.
“Asylum seekers feast on delicious free buffets aboard cruise ships while Dutch families must reduce their purchases”, we can read in the manifesto.
Proposed anti-immigration measures include reinstating Dutch border control, detaining and deporting illegal immigrants, returning Syrian asylum seekers and re-introducing work permits for intra-EU workers.
As for Islam, the PVV manifesto says: “The Netherlands is not an Islamic country. No schools, Korans and Islamic mosques.”
He proposes banning the wearing of the veil in government buildings.
In terms of foreign policy, he defends a “Netherlands first” approach which includes closing its representation in Ramallah and strengthening ties with Israel, including moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
A “binding referendum” on a “Nexit” — the Netherlands' exit from the EU — is also on the agenda, along with an “immediate end” to development aid.
Mr. Wilders was participating in his sixth election, after having failed to cause a surprise on several occasions.
“When I left my old party [the VVD] […] I said that one day we become the largest party,” Mr. Wilders told journalists while voting.