Last Wednesday’s elections marked a victory for Geert Wilder’s far right Party for Freedom (PVV), in which they secured 37 seats, setting it up to be the largest part in the new Dutch Parliament. While Wilders denies being truly far right and was forced to tone down some of his more extreme policies in order to appeal to a broader electorate, many would argue that some of his planned policies are still pretty drastic, particularly following his claims that he will curtail the ‘asylum tsunami’ and ‘get the Dutch their country back’ . But who exactly this man that makes Nigel Farage seem like a positive champion of multiculturalism?
Wilders, now 60, isn’t exactly new to politics. Having held a seat in the Dutch Parliament since 1998, he now leads the PVV, which he founded in 2006. However, even before then Wilders was still working to express his extreme views, and was a speech writer for People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. He worked closely with Frits Bolkestein, the party leader, who was widely known for his critical attitude towards migration of Muslims to the Netherlands. Bolkestein likely inspired Wilders, perhaps explaining some of Wilder’s Islamophobic attitudes today, although it is Thatcher that Wilders considers his greatest role model, indicating where on the political spectrum he sits.
The key thing Wilders tends to be associated with is Islamophobia, and the politician has a long history of causing offence through his various remarks on the religion. Perhaps most famously, he stated, ‘I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam,’ before continuing to compare the Qur’an to Mein Kampf. He has also made several other controversial moves such as proposing a tax on those who wear Hijab’s, calling for an immediate end to Islamic migration and, concerningly, promising to ‘arrange’ the removal of Moroccan migrants to the Netherlands. His dislike of Islam isn’t limited to the Netherlands – in 2011, he made a speech in the US on the proposed opening of an Islamic Community centre, stating, ‘Draw this line so that New York…will never become New mecca.’
Wilders arguably also lets Islamophobia guide many of his opinions on international affairs too. In the past, he has shown strong support to Russia, describing Putin as a ‘true patriot’ and stating that Russia was an ally of the Netherlands in the war on Islamic terrorism (although he has shown less support to the Kremlin since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.) His anti-Islamic ideals have also led to his support of Israel, with him stating the country is, ‘the West’s first line of defence’ against the threat Islam poses. Previously, he has been investigated by Dutch intelligence services for his strong ties to Israel, and this year he has been vocally critical of the Dutch government for not ‘taking action’ against pro-Palestine protests, despite his constant calls for freedom of speech.
Unsurprisingly, his views have made him a controversial figure, and he has been guarded by armed police constantly since 2004. He has also faced two trials for inciting discrimination and for hate speech, although both were dismissed. Wilders has faced the prospect of being banned from multiple countries, and was banned by home secretary Jacqui Smith from entering the UK in 2009, although this was later overturned by the Asylum and Immigration tribunal. Wilders has also faced a more extreme response from Islamic fundamentalist Feiz Mohammad , who called for his beheading, and from al-Qaeda, who placed him on a hit list.
This marks the latest win of the far right in a recent surge across Europe; from Meloni in Italy to Orban in Hungary, issues such as immigration and minority rights have arguably driven much of the surge in the elections of right wing populists we have seen recently. It is now reported that 1/3 of Europeans across the continent vote for populist far right or far left politicians. This rise in extreme attitudes will be interesting to watch change and develop over these figures’ coming governments.
Image: Hans Splinter on Flickr