In yesterday’s local elections – the first ever in
which Wilders’ party, established as recently as 2007, participated – the PVV
became the biggest party in Almere and the second party in The Hague, two of
the country’s major cities. The PVV won 21.6% of the votes in Almere and 16.9%
in The Hague. The parties of the left had mobilized Muslim immigrants to come
out and vote against Wilders. Many of them did so.
The Hague and Almere were the only two municipalities
where the PVV fielded candidates for yesterday’s local elections. The PVV would
also have done well in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other cities, but decided not
to run there. Wilders is leading a young party which still lacks a solid local
structure. Rather than concentrating on quantity and fielding candidates
wherever he could, even if he was not sure about the candidates’ background and
talents, Wilders concentrated on quality. He could not afford to take the risk
that in the three months remaining until June 9th, local PVV
newcomers might discredit the PVV’s good reputation.
Wilders is a shrewd but cautious political strategist.
He has learned from the experience of the LPF, the party of the late Dutch
politician Pim Fortuyn. In many respects Fortuyn stood for the same ideas as
Wilders. After Fortuyn’s assassination the LPF fell apart in quarrelling
factions. In 2007 the party lost its 8 seats in Parliament, while the PVV
gained 9 seats in the first parliamentary elections in which it participated.
A poll taken yesterday by Dutch state television NOS
predicts that Wilders will gain 24 of the 150 parliamentary seats next June.
This would make the PVV the third biggest party in the country, after the Christian-Democrats
(CDA) of the current Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, and Labour.
There are, however, other polls, such as the De Hond poll, which many consider
to be the Netherlands’ most respected, which predicted yesterday that the PVV is
to become the biggest party with 27 seats.
CDA currently has 41 seats; the NOS poll predicts that
it will drop to a mere 29, De Hond predicts an even lower 26 seats. Labour
currently has 33 seats and is predicted by NOS to drop to 27 and by De Hond to
24 seats. The center-right Liberal Party VVD is predicted in both polls to keep
its current 21 seats. The Christian Union (CU) has seven seats in both polls,
one more than the current six. Hence, both NOS and De Hond predict that the
current center-left coalition of CDA, Labour and CU loses its parliamentary
majority. A center-right coalition of CDA, Wilders’ PVV, VVD and CU would in
both polls have a comfortable majority of 81 seats.
Geert Wilders is currently the most interesting
political phenomenon in Europe. He is an anti-establishment politician who has
a good chance of becoming a leading member of his country’s next government.
Wilders defends Dutch national sovereignty and opposes the European Union’s
centralizing policies. He also defends Dutch national identity and opposes the
Islamization of the Netherlands. Wilders’ themes appeal to people in other
European countries as well. They are equally concerned about the loss of
national sovereignty and identity and feel that Europe’s traditional parties no
longer speak for them.
From the center-right to the center-left Europe’s
establishment parties share the consensus that Islamization and EU
centralization are inevitable and must be facilitated if the parties want to
survive and hold on to power. Wilders, however, is a politician who, in a
Buckleyan tradition, “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no
one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”
On international issues Wilders adopts positions which
also go against those of Europe’s ruling political and intellectual
establishment. He is an opponent of Turkey’s entry into the EU, an outspoken
defender of Israel and an advocate of stronger American-European relations.
This makes him unpopular with the media, but it has not harmed him with the
During the past three years, Wilders has been
screening and training potential candidates for the parliamentary elections. To
avoid attracting political opportunists and quarrelsome wranglers, he has been
bringing potential candidates together in “class rooms” every Saturday. He has
also had them coached by the party’s current parliamentarians. When the Dutch government
fell two weeks ago, Wilders announced that he was ready for the elections and
able to field a list of decent and capable candidates.
Wilders has carefully avoided international contacts
with foreign anti-establishment and anti-immigrant parties who have been
tarnished by anti-Semitic elements in the past. Wilders regards support for
Israel as the litmus test to decide with whom he is willing to cooperate. His
only official contacts so far have been with the Danish People’s Party (DF) and
the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The PVV leader has traveled to
Denmark and Britain to speak at the invitation of the DF and UKIP. Last year, the
British Labour government banned Wilders from entering Britain when he traveled
there to speak in the House of Lords at the invitation of UKIP leader Lord
Malcolm Pearson. The ban has meanwhile been overruled in court. As it happens,
Wilders will be in London tomorrow, Friday, to hold the speech which he was
prevented from holding in February 2009. On this occasion he will also show the
short documentary Fitna which he made in 2008 to warn the
world about Islam, which in his opinion is a dangerous ideology rather than a
Wilders has succeeded in making Islamisation one of
the major themes of the coming elections. Ironically, the Dutch authorities
have helped him by taking him to court over Fitna.
They have accused him of racism and incitement to hatred and discrimination
against non-Western ethnic minorities. Although Wilders is an elected member of
Parliament, he could be taken to court because the Netherlands, unlike some of
its neighboring countries, does not grant politicians immunity from prosecution.
The Public Prosecutor argues that by stating his
opinions on Islam, Wilders has “insulted” Muslims. The politician, however,
emphasizes that he has never said anything negative about Muslims; he has
always carefully restricted his criticism to the ideology of Islam and has done
nothing else but state what he honestly sees as the truth. Wilders asked the
court for permission to summon 18 expert witnesses in his defense. These
include academics, former Muslims, but also Islamist apologists of terrorism.
In early February the court brushed aside the request, allowing Wilders to
summon only two Dutch academics plus the Syrian born American author and former
Muslim Wafa Sultan. Moreover, to prevent the trial from turning into a trial
about the nature of Islam – with Islam in the dock rather than Wilders – the
court ruled that the three experts will only be heard behind closed doors.
Finally, the court decided to postpone the case for a few months.
If the case is reopened before June 9th, it
will seriously hamper Wilders’ electoral campaign because he is obliged to
attend the court’s sessions. On the other hand, it could gain him the sympathy
of additional voters and bring his ideas even more into the foreground as the
major theme of the elections.
If the PVV manages to become the largest party in the
Netherlands, Dutch Queen Beatrix is expected to ask Wilders to try to form a
coalition government, although the Queen is not legally obliged to do so. It is
the tradition, however, that the leader of the largest party becomes the
nation’s next Prime Minister.
In Almere last week, Wilders announced that one of the
first things a PVV led coalition will do is introduce a ban on headscarves for
civil servants and for all institutions, foundations or associations that
receive municipal subsidies. He added: “For all clarity, this ban does not
include crosses or yarmulkes, because those are symbols of religions that
belong to our culture and are not – as is the case with headscarves – a sign of
an oppressive totalitarian ideology.”
The American journalist Diana West, author of the book
The Death of the Grown-Up, says that Wilders is “so
important as a politician leading the reversal of the Islamization of the West”
because of the clarity of the distinction which he makes between Islam and
other religions. “He defies the multicultural lock on truth as he rejects the
cultural relativist’s denial of identity.”
If Wilders becomes the next Dutch Prime Minister he
will be able to influence decision making at the level of the European Union
and become a major political figure on the international scene. Some observers
expect that the mainstream Dutch center-right parties – the Christian-Democrats
and the Liberals – will not be willing to form a coalition with him because
they want to keep him away from the international political scene. If that is
the case, however, the most likely outcome of the June elections will be a center-right
minority government that depends on the support of the PVV. The Netherlands
have no tradition of minority governments. Denmark, however, has. In Denmark,
the center-right governs with the support of the Danish People’s Party. It is a
formula which has allowed the DF to set the government’s agenda without being
part of the government.
Wilders is familiar with the Danish model. In the past
three years he has met the DF leadership in the Danish Parliament on two
occasions. Not being a member of a government coalition, whilst still being
able to set its agenda, might be an attractive alternative to the shrewd Dutch
political tactician. It would also give him the opportunity to continue
visiting Western countries, including America, to warn the West about the
danger of Islam and to build an international political movement opposing multiculturalist