Here’s a brief primer on the Dutch elections being held today, put together from two sources.
For the sake of the future of Europe, let’s hope that Geert Wilders sweeps to a giant victory.
His Twitter page is emblazoned with the phrase “Stop Islam.” He’s called some Moroccan immigrants “scum” who make Dutch streets “unsafe.”
Meet Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician and rabble-rouser known nearly as much for his thick head of peroxide platinum hair as for his Islamophobia.
Wilders, who heads the Freedom Party, is often dubbed the Dutch Donald Trump. But this far-right populist is both more ideological and less impulsive than America’s president. He has called for making the “Netherlands great again,” banning the Quran, taxing the hijab, shutting down all mosques, sealing off Dutch borders to Muslim newcomers, and pulling the Netherlands out of the European Union.
“All the values Europe stands for — freedom, democracy, human rights — are incompatible with Islam,” he said in a 2015 video. It was both shocking and hardly the most controversial thing he’s said.
He is a darling of the American far right and at the forefront of a wave of anti-immigrant populism sweeping Europe. After leading in the polls, his party is now projected to finish third in Wednesday’s Dutch elections, though because of the fractured nature of Dutch parliamentary politics, Wilders himself was unlikely to ever ascend to the prime minister’s office. That doesn’t mean he’s been marginalized: Wilders has already successfully dragged the political conversation in the Netherlands to the right — and may be helping to do the same for the rest of Europe.
NBC News explains some background relating to the Dutch elections that are happening NOW.
AMSTERDAM — For mainstream European politicians upended by the wave of anti-immigrant populism, political survival means swimming along with the tide.
A series of national elections this year will determine the fate of the European Union and immigration policy on the continent, and some are aiming to attract support away from the far-right.
This posture will be tested Wednesday when Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy confronts anti-immigration figurehead Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom among a thicket of 28 other rivals.
The mild-mannered Rutte, who has a reputation for optimistic, socially liberal policies, took out newspaper ads late last year telling Dutch people to “act normal or leave” — a statement that observers took as a thinly-veiled attempt to imitate Wilders’ views. In December, Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans.
And in a television interview in September, Rutte used a local colloquial profanity to tell Turkish immigrants who attacked journalists to go back to their country.
In an interview with NBC News at a rally in the southern town of Breda on Sunday, Rutte denied copying Wilders.
“I have made no anti-immigrant statements,” he said. “I am fighting on my own agenda.”
Rutte seems like a late arrival to the exclusionary patter that has made Wilders so popular and controversial.
In the interview Sunday, Rutte described his “act normal” newspaper ads as a plea for public civility directed at everyone in Dutch society.
“It means that we all have to make sure that we are not just there to live our own lives but we also have a responsibility to make sure that we live in a context of caring about others,” he said. “It’s not just me, myself and I. We are a society.”
Wilders inciting discrimination conviction followed a 2014 municipal election rally when he led a crowd in chants of “Fewer! Fewer!” in response to the question: “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?”
Unlike Rutte, Wilders has rarely tried to climb down from his most inflammatory comments. In a tweet, he called the verdict, which carried no penalty, “insane.”
Though analysts point to Rutte’s slight improvement in polls, many Wilders voters remain unconvinced.
“I don’t think it’s authentic,” said Xandra Lammers, who supports Wilders, referring to Rutte’s tentative embrace of populism. “He’s swimming with the waves of Geert Wilders.”
Lammers, a professional translator, said she was once a leftist like most Dutch voters. She swung right after Dutch officials moved Moroccan immigrants to her Amsterdam neighborhood of Ijburg.
Since then, she’s been active on social media, blogging about what she calls the government’s “failed experiment” of creating a multicultural neighborhood.