Although he considers himself a liberal, the politician has been an outspoken critic of the religion and faced death threats for his views
Geert Wilders is a stalwart of the Dutch opposition, whose controversial views on immigration and Islam have seen him live under police protection for nearly two decades. Now, after a fresh election victory, he has a chance to become the next prime minister of the Netherlands.
Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) won 37 seats in Wednesday’s general election, more than doubling its presence in parliament and making it the country’s largest single party. After decades in opposition, Wilders declared in his victory speech that he intends to form a government, and is
“confident that [he] can reach an agreement” with the mainstream right, which has for years balked at working with the PVV.
Wilders’ began his political career as a member of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). Following the assassination of Pim Fortuyn – a popular politician and critic of Islam – in 2002, Wilders made a series of speeches condemning multiculturalism and Islamic immigration. When the VVD endorsed Türkiye’s bid for EU membership in 2004, Wilders split from the party and formed the PVV.
In a manifesto published two years later, Wilders called for a moratorium on all non-Western immigration to the Netherlands, a ban on the founding of new mosques, and a tax on the wearing of the Hijab by Muslim women. Wilders went on to call the Islamic Prophet Mohammed “the devil,” the Quran “a fascist book” that should be outlawed, and Moroccan immigrants “street terrorists.” Targeted by extremistsWilders’ hardline positions and proclivity for political stunts – including his hosting of a ‘Prophet Mohammed cartoon competition’ in 2019 – have led to death threats from extremist preachers and terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda. He was placed under police protection in 2004, after plans for his assassination were discovered, and to this day he is watched 24/7 by armed officers. Wilders has been tried twice for hate speech in the Netherlands. In 2016, a court found him guilty of inciting "discrimination and hatred" over a speech he gave two years earlier, in which he asked his supporters whether they wanted “fewer Moroccans” in the country. The verdict was overturned in 2020. A right-wing liberalWhile Wilders is often described in the media as “far-right,” he rejects the label, and has distanced himself from other European right-wing movements. “I'm very afraid of being linked with the wrong rightist fascist groups,” he told The Guardian in 2008, explaining in subsequent interviews that he views Islam as a threat to women’s and LGBT rights, free speech, and social tolerance. A more moderate message
Wilders toned down his anti-Islam rhetoric during this year’s campaign, although immigration remained front and center. His manifesto promised a freeze on the admission of asylum seekers, the deportation of criminal immigrants, and the prioritization of native Dutch people for social housing.
"The Netherlands will be returned to the Dutch,” he said in his victory speech, declaring that “the asylum tsunami will be curbed.” In a nod to potential coalition partners – likely the VVD or the newly formed and centrist New Social Contract party – he added that all of his proposals will be “within the law and the constitution.”In this year’s manifesto, Wilders also proposed to either hold a referendum on leaving the EU or dramatically lower the Netherlands’ contributions to the union, scrap climate legislation, and halt arms transfers to Ukraine. While Wilders has condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, he argues that the Netherlands should bolster its own military rather than that of Kiev. Wilders has also vowed to block Ukraine’s accession to the EU and NATO, and has called sanctions on Russia “ineffective and also bad for the Netherlands.” The next prime minister? "We want to govern and...we will govern,” Wilders said in Wednesday night’s speech. To do so, Wilders will need the backing of 38 other lawmakers to make up a majority, a situation that could lead to protracted talks and compromise from the PVV leader. New Social Contract leader Pieter Omtzigt said that his party is “available to govern,” potentially adding another 20 seats, while Thierry Baudet, whose right-wing Forum for Democracy (FVD) managed to secure only three seats, said that he would “contribute… in any way.”With 24 seats, the center-right VVD is a potential coalition partner, having secured the PVV’s support to form a government in 2010. However, the deal fell apart within two years, and the VVD’s current leader, Dilan Yesilgoz, has previously ruled out entering a coalition with Wilders.
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