Geert Wilders is the leader of the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) in the Netherlands. His party is now #1 in the polls, and there is an election coming up. Despite the fact that he can’t safely venture into the streets without being surrounded by armed bodyguards, Mr. Wilders plans to campaign vigorously.
Below are excerpt from today’s Reuters report:
INTERVIEW — Anti-Islam politician Wilders aims to “paralyse” Dutch govt
Jan 23 (Reuters) – Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is counting on concern over Paris militant attacks to help him “paralyse” the centre-right coalition government and stake a claim to greater national influence.
Accused by critics of inflaming tensions in a land that has long welcomed workers from Morocco and Turkey, Wilders goes into local elections on March 18 with his Freedom Party commanding about 25 percent support — far more than any other and enough, possibly, to give him a blocking vote in the Upper House.
Wilders, who has lived under 24-hour security since the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh a decade ago by an Islamist militant, says he will make forays onto the street to campaign. But he will appear in public only briefly surrounded by bodyguards.
His message to Dutch electors, couched with warnings of “Islamisation” of Europe, was direct.
“Vote, vote today. You can perhaps send the government home,” Wilders said, in an interview with Reuters. “If not, you can paralyse the government. So those are very important elections.”
However, while Wilders may be able to block legislation in the Upper House, he would be hard pressed to find coalition partners to form any national government. At best he might increase his power to press anti-immigrant policies.
Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet nearly collapsed in December after losing a vote in the Upper House, where he lacks a majority.
“Most people expect that he (Wilders) will gain some seats, and perhaps even a considerable number of seats,” Henk te Velde, a political historian at Leiden University.
Wilders sees himself vindicated in his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas by Islamist militant attacks two weeks ago in Paris that killed 17 people.
He accused Rutte of failing to jail militant jihadists and said the army should be deployed to protect potential Dutch targets.
“If somebody makes an attack, you are not a perpetrator, Mr. prime minister, but you have blood on your hands, if somebody commits a terrorist act in the Netherlands.”
Wilders, on the same al Qaeda blacklist as the slain editor of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, said he would travel to all 12 provinces to meet voters.
“There will be a lot of security, but I will do it anyway, even if it’s just to let the other people, the terrorists, see that they will not be able to stop the democratic process.”
An opinion poll taken after the Paris attacks showed the Freedom Party winning 31 seats in the country’s 150-seat parliament, more than doubling its showing in the 2012 elections and becoming by far the largest party. The governing Liberal-Labour coalition would win just 28 seats.