After scoring gains in local elections, Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders is now primed to make waves in a national poll in June by tapping into discontent over Islam and globalisation.
In the first test of public opinion since the collapse of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s coalition government last month, Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) became the largest party in the city of Almere and came second in The Hague on Wednesday.
Drawing strength from a savvy public relations machine and a populist anti-immigration stance that plays well with part of the electorate, Wilders also represents a vote against the political elite, political experts say. “He thrives on discontent in society and multiculturalism and he has targeted Islam,” said Nico Landman, an associate professor in Islamic studies at Utrecht University.
Muslims now make up about 6 percent, or 1 million of the 16 million population of the Netherlands. “We need to give an opposing voice and that’s what we want to keep doing and we haven’t done that enough,” said Henny Kreeft, chairman of the Dutch Muslim Party chairman. “Wilders creates fear and reacts to the Islamisation of the Netherlands, but there is no Islamisation of the Netherlands.”