Europe is on the brink of European elections which can change Europe forever, starting in The Netherlands on March 15th.
Geert Wilders and his Party For Freedom are leading the polls.
What if he wins the elections? Will The Netherlands leave the EU, and close its borders to muslim immigrants?
The Trump victory and Brexit vote have fueled a wave of anti-establishment sentiment that could see this years elections in France, Germany and The Netherlands won by right-wing populist parties.
The latest poll from Peil forecasts Wilders’ Party For Freedom (in Dutch: PVV) to win 29 out of 150 parliamentary seats, more than any other party. Wilders has vowed he will call a referendum on Dutch EU membership and to end immigration from muslim countries. Moreover he promises his voters his party will close all mosques and Islamic schools, and ban the Koran. Criminals with a dual nationality will be denaturalized and expulsed.
With less than three weeks to go before the Dutch elections Wilders announced the suspension of his campaign, because of a possible mole in his security detail. But it will not stop the Freedom Party from becoming the largest or second largest political party of The Netherlands.
Why is it Geert Wilders is so popular?
The Netherlands has been a prosperous country since at least the 1960’s. And it still is, but for the first time since the end of World War II a majority of the Dutch think their children and future generations will be worse off. Many think this has something to do with the EU. Of all EU countries The Netherlands has been the largest net contributor to the EU ever since 2000. For at least 16 years the Dutch have been contributing far more than they’ve received in return. Also, when the euro was introduced in January 1th 2002, the Dutch immediately felt a sharp drop in purchasing power. Things got more expensive within one day. Some prices even doubled. This was refuted by the government, but Dutch consumers know better from their own experience.
And then again the EU is blamed for problems concerning immigrants. Not only because of the EU’s lacking external border control, but also because of it’s seemingly insatiable hunger for territorial expansion. Last year in The Netherlands a referendum was held about the EU association agreement with Ukraine. The majority voted against the agreement, but nevertheless in December last year it became clear the Dutch government decided to ratify. As a result political parties that have spoken out against the agreement, and especially Geert Wilders, will benefit from the anger many Dutchmen now feel about the ruling parties, the VVD (liberal party) and PvdA (labour party), for having disregarded their voices of concern.
Immigration has been a key issue in the Dutch elections ever since the elections of 2002 when another anti-immigration party, LPF, won 26 of 150 seats. The sentiments among the Dutch back then are not very different from today. Ethnical groups like Morrocans, from northern Africa, have been overrepresented in the official crime statistics for years and years. Also, many non-western immigrants live on welfare and occupy cheap but luxurious dwellings in The Netherlands, provided to them by Housing Associations.
At the same time, over the past decades, the Dutch have seen one austerity measure after another; on senior housing, student grants, health care, social security and so on. Many think, Geert Wilders for one, these austerity measures are a result of the costs involved with immigration. And last but not least, the Dutch, like the Germans, the French and other Europeans, fear a clash of civilizations, with fast growing muslim communities in their midsts, and becoming a minority in their own country. According to the Dutch Central Agency of Statistics one out of 20 Dutchmen is muslim.
What if Wilders’ party wins the elections?
Not much will change, and Wilders’ followers will be disillusioned, just like they were after the former immigration party LPF won the elections. Although the LPV in 2002 entered the Dutch cabinet, they didn’t get anywhere. After the party’s leader, Pim Fortuyn, was killed, a struggle for power brought chaos to the party, eventually bringing down the cabinet within only four months. It’s very unlikely Party for Freedom will enter any cabinet. In the current reality, with votes scattered over so many political parties, Wilders needs at least three other mayor parties to form a cabinet. In this he won’t succeed. There are only two other mayor right wing parties in The Netherlands that share some views with Wilders’ Freedom Party: the liberals of VVD and the christian democrats of CDA. But both parties have declared they exclude the possibility of forming a government with the Freedom Party.
Closing all mosques and banning the Koran would be against the Freedom of Religion, one of the basic rights in the Dutch constitution. VVD and CDA will not help Wilders to realize this. The same goes for closing the borders for immigrants from islamic countries. It’s simply impossible as long as The Netherlands is a member state of the European Union, and it’s the European Commission and not the Dutch government that’s in charge of immigration and asylum policies. VVD and CDA are very much pro-EU.
Furthermore, in December last year a Dutch court found Wilders guilty of inciting discrimination against Moroccans. Although the court cleared Wilders of the charge of inciting hatred and imposed no fine or sentence, VVD-leader and prime-minister has repeatedly said he would not go into government with the PVV unless Wilders withdrew his remarks on Moroccans. There’s no indication Wilders will do so.
Nevertheless the establishment parties will not be amused if Wilders wins the elections. Under the Dutch proportional representation system the leader of the largest party is conventionally given the first shot at forming a new government. Many effort has already been put in trying to stop Wilders’ race to the top. Some journalists and activists tried to tie him to Russia, because of his Euro criticism. By advocating a Nexit (Holland leaving the EU) Wilders supposedly helps Russia to further destabilize the EU. But that trick, trying to damage Wilders reputation didn’t work, since so many of Wilders’ supporters think highly of president Vladimir Putin, especially because of his proven successes in the fight against islamic terrorism.
Also Wilders has been portrayed as an agent of Israel. In December last year de Volkskrant, one of Holland’s leading daily newspapers, published an article, saying Wilders had been put under surveillance of the Dutch intelligence service, AIVD, in the years 2009 and 2010, because of his Israeli contacts. The article was entirely put together from anonymous sources.
This article didn't seem to have harmed Wilders at all. Wilders never has made a secret of his warm feelings for Israel and his contacts with high-ranked Israeli officials. Also, it has been known for a while Wilders' party received donations from well known friends of Israel, like Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz.
Meanwhile new anti-EU and anti-immigration parties, VNL and Forum for Democracy, are warming up to take over Wilders’ leading position in the Dutch anti-immigration debate. If they don’t win any seats in the Dutch parliament they surely will the next national elections.
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