< SWITCH ME >
|Written by Sara De Sloover|
He could be a movie star, for all we know: he has a staff of bodyguards, he always makes sure his hair is dyed nicely blonde, and wherever he goes, swarms of journalist surround him, always keen to report on the next commotion he causes. But there the comparison ends. Meet Dutch MP Geert Wilders (46), one of the most important contenders for Prime Minister in the upcoming election race in the Netherlands, and our Flop European.
Wilders believes that all immigration from non-western countries to Europe should be put to an end immediately. He has warned that unless "Islamification" is stopped now, it will only be a matter of time till we live in "Eurabia". Last year, his Party for Freedom was the big winner in the elections for the European Parliament. They took 4 seats, only one seat behind the Christian-Democrats. Last month, Wilders' party only campaigned in two cities for the local elections. But it promptly became the biggest party in one of them and the second biggest in the other.
Wilders is clearly one to watch out for. At a press conference in London this month, he shocked the international press present there by saying that Mohammed was "a barbarian, mass murderer and a paedophile" and that Islam is "violent, dangerous and backward". In response to the questions of a Turkish radio station present, Wilders called the Turkish leaders, who had forbidden him to enter the country, "disturbed" and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan "a total freak". Actually, he was banned from entering the United Kingdom last year too: the Home Office viewed his presence as a threat to national security. But he appealed the decision and went to London anyway.
A Politician and the "Hague elite"
Wilders has always been very critical of the 'bell jar' in The Hague — the Dutch political capital where the parliament and all the ministries are located. But he himself started working for the Dutch Liberal Party (VVD) as a policy official when he was 27, became a member of parliament when he was 35, and has been a member of the "Hague elite", as he calls the politicians and their staff, ever since. Wilders left the VVD in 2004 when he refused to endorse the party's position that European Union accession negotiations must be started with Turkey, and formed his own party, the Party for Freedom.
On Danish television, Wilders said last year that all Muslims who cause trouble in Europe should immediately be deported to their country of origin. Asked how many people fall into this category, he answered: "Tens of millions".
In 2007, Wilders wrote an open letter to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant in which he stated that the "fascist" Koran should be outlawed like Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. In 2008, he brought out the anti-Islam movie "Fitna". The Amsterdam Court of Appeal ordered afterwards that he be prosecuted for 'the incitement of hatred and discrimination'. The controversial Dutch MP has since then successfully profiled himself as a "freedom fighter" and martyr for the freedom of speech. This is ironic, considering that he himself wants to ban the sacred text of his adversaries: the Koran.
Wherever he goes, he has his weapons aimed at Islam. On Danish television, Wilders said last year that all Muslims who caused trouble in Europe should immediately be deported to their country of origin. Asked how many people fell into this category, he answered: "Tens of millions". Whereas — as the Dutch minister of Integration eagerly pointed out — there are only 20 million Muslims in the EU. His newest hobby horse is the so-called "head-rag tax", a proposal for a €1000 a year excise tax on wearing headscarves.
A Popular Radical
Despite, or maybe thanks to, his controversial opinions about Islam and immigration, Wilders is enormously popular amongst the Dutch — in 2009, he came in second in two polls for Politician of the Year. In the polls, his party holds the second position for the upcoming elections of June, 9th.
But now Dutch firms are up in arms. The head of the Dutch Association of Entrepreneurs (VNO-NCW), Bernard Wientjes, has said that Wilders' statements damage the reputation of the Netherlands, which could have repercussions for Dutch prosperity in the long run. "This whole discussion about headscarves for example, is totally irrelevant. But here it seems the most important issue ever", Wientjes said last month in de Volkskrant. He "shudders" when he thinks about the possibility that Wilders could end up in the Dutch government.
There's some news on the bright side. When asked recently whom they would prefer as their new Prime Minister, Dutch voters overwhelmingly preferred the new social-democratic leader, Job Cohen (55%). Prime Minister under resignation Jan Peter Balkenende would get 25%. Wilders received only 17% of the votes. Let us hope they vote along the same lines when they are in the voting booth. Otherwise a Muslim-bashing, foreigner-hating Prime Minister could be in store.