Observations of an ex Pat: Geert

White-haired Dutch politician Geert Wilders hates the label far-right. Neither is he particularly fond of being called an extremist or fascist.

Wilders also dislikes Islam, the Koran, the EU, asylum seekers, and most foreigners in general. He is the avowed leader of the “Counter-Jihad Movement.”

He has been in and out of Dutch courts on hate charges; was banned for several years from Britain, Germany and Austria and has a permanent armed police guard to protect him from assassination. Wilders has attacked the Koran as a “fascist book”, Mohammed as “the devil” and Islam is a “retarded culture.”

He does have likes. They include: Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher and Israel. He is less keen on France’s Marine Le Pen and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. On Donald Trump he is ambivalent. He approves of Trump’s anti-Muslim and America first policies, but questions his honesty and claims to have won the 2020 elections.

The leader of the Dutch Freedom Party also wants to turn back the clock to 1830 and reunite the Netherlands with the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium.

Wilders political beliefs are important because he is in line to be the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands. And as one of the founding members of the European Community the Netherlands has an outsized voice in the EU and beyond.

His premiership is not guaranteed. The Netherlands has a proportional representation system and a leader needs an outright majority of the 150-seat parliament to form a coalition. Wilders this week won the most seats—37– but the other main parties have either point-blank refused to serve with Wilders or expressed extreme reluctance.

It is quite likely that the debate over the suitability of Wilders as Dutch PM will mean that the Netherlands breaks the 2017, 225-day record for agreeing a coalition.

Five years ago, Wilders’s Freedom Party was the potential junior partner in a coalition with Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). It took 225 days of difficult negotiations because no one would go into government with Wilders, and in the end a government was formed without him.

Rutte’s government collapsed earlier this year over the perfect issue for Wilders—asylum and immigration.

Wilder’s decided to exploit the situation by revising his party manifesto to make it more acceptable to the Dutch voting palate. He promised to be “prime minister for everyone” and proposals to ban the Korean and Islamic schools were “put in the fridge.”

But that was it as far as concessions to liberals went. Wilders still proposed a referendum on EU membership and a ban on the wearing of the Islamic Hijab. He wants to “push back” asylum seekers coming from other EU countries; stop Muslim immigration, pay immigrants to leave the Netherlands; require work permits for EU nationals; end permanent residence visas and reduce the number of foreign students.

Immigration has become an increasingly toxic topic in Dutch politics. Only five percent of the population is Muslim, but the Netherlands is one of Europe’s most overcrowded. There are 1,353 people packed into each square mile compared to 600 in England or 96 in America. On top of that, the Netherlands is short 350,000 homes to house its population.

Despite the fertile conditions for Wilders xenophobia, the potential PM’s policies face a number of obstacles. The first has already been discussed—forming a coalition. The second is persuading your coalition partners to enact the necessary legislation. The third is fighting the challenges to that legislation in the Dutch constitutional court and the fourth is fighting them in the European Court of Justice.

Foreign policy, however, is another matter. Wilders’ has been a staunch supporter of Israel since he went there as a young student. The Jewish state, he has declared, “is the West’s first line of defense against the threat of Islam.”

He is also pro-Russian. Wilders has described Putin as a “true patriot” and backed unsuccessful parliamentary motions to stop aid to Ukraine, end sanctions against Russia and declare Dutch neutrality in any dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

In spite of all his policies, Wilders is described as an “extremely agreeable affable” man who gets on well with even his bitterest rivals. Perhaps that helps to explain an electoral victory that has rocked the foundations of European politics.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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One Comment

  • Wilders is described as an “extremely agreeable affable” man who gets on well with even his bitterest rivals! Perhaps that makes him even more dangerous?.

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