Geert Wilders: Islamophobic, far-right extremist wins Dutch election
Geert Wilders, the Dutch populist who built his political career on Islamophobia, could become the next leader of the Netherlands after his far-right Freedom Party (PVV) got the most votes in elections on Wednesday.
After 25 years in Dutch politics without holding office, Wilders was set to lead coalition government talks and has a good chance of becoming prime minister.
Wilders was convicted of inciting hatred against Moroccans when he called them "scum" at an election rally in 2016.
The far-right politician has made rabidly anti-Islamic comments, calling the Prophet Muhammad a "paedophile", Islam a "fascist ideology" and a "backward religion", and wants to ban mosques and the Quran.
In 2009, the British government refused to let him visit the country, saying he posed a threat to "community harmony and therefore public security".
Correction: Geert Wilders a far right racist who wants to ban Muslims, mosques and headscarves and now has power to maybe be Dutch PM. Which will enable worse hate on the streets. He’s been normalised & platformed. This is the result. A warning to us all. If we choose to listen.— Adil Ray OBE (@adilray) November 23, 2023
"The Netherlands will be returned to the Dutch, the asylum tsunami and migration will be curbed," Wilders said after his party won 35 seats in the Dutch parliament, making it the largest party by far.
“These election results are shocking for Dutch Muslims,” said Muhsin Köktas of the Contact Body for Muslims and Government. “We did not expect such a party with a programme that is against the basic principles of the rule of law to be so big.”
Wilders attempted to soften his anti-Islam rhetoric in the lead-up to the elections, preferring to focus on issues such as cost-of-living, with some analysts describing him as "Geert Milders".
However, he has never apologised for or retracted his anti-Muslim comments and in fact, the PVV election programme reiterated them.
"The Netherlands is not an Islamic country: no Islamic schools, Korans and mosques," it read.
"Wilders is by far the best campaigner. Even his political opponents will admit that," author Willem Post of the Netherlands' Clingendael Institute think-tank said.
"He's the one-liner guy, he's a bit like (former US President Donald) Trump."
The extremist politician is one of the Netherlands' most recognisable figures thanks to his dyed blond mane, but little is known about his private life, except that he is married to a Hungarian-born woman and has two cats - who have their own Instagram and X accounts.
On a children's TV program, Wilders last week said he enjoyed playing "Mario Kart" on his PlayStation and reading Donald Duck comics.
But these attempts to soften his public image are of little comfort to Dutch Muslims.
“The distress and the fear are enormous,” said Habib El Kaddouri, who chairs an organisation representing Dutch Moroccans.
“I don’t know if Muslims are still safe in the Netherlands,” he told the news agency ANP. “I am worried about this country.”
Geert Wilders is not merely "anti-Islam" as described by the BBC, Reuters, LBC & The Telegraph— Miqdaad Versi (@miqdaad) November 23, 2023
This implies he's just a critic of the teachings of Islam
Actually he's a hateful far-right Islamophobe who targets ordinary Muslims
Wilders has also said that the Netherlands should stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, saying it needs these for itself.
He is a staunch supporter of Israel and advocates shifting the embassy of the Netherlands there to Jerusalem and closing the Dutch diplomatic post in Ramallah, where the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority are.
Having made strongly anti-EU comments in the past, he moderated his tone over the election campaign as he sought to get his party into government. He will have to work with pro-EU parties to form a coalition.
Wilders is set to become the longest-serving lawmaker in the Dutch parliament later this year. He has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1998, originally for the centre-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy.
(Reuters, AP, AFP, and The New Arab Staff)