“The most interesting political phenomenon in Europe”

The Netherlands held local elections yesterday, and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) scored a major success. The PVV came in first in Almere (with 21.5 percent of the vote) and second in The Hague (with 16.9 percent). These are two of the country’s major cities.
Wilders decided not to put up a slate in other municipalities. It seems clear that the PVV could have done well in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. However, as Paul Belien of Brussels Journal explains:

Wilders is leading a young party which still lacks a solid local structure [these were the first local elections PVV has participated in]. Rather than concentrating on quantity and fielding candidates wherever he could, even if he was not sure about the candidates’ background and talents, Wilders concentrated on quality. He could not afford to take the risk that in the three months remaining until June 9th, local PVV newcomers might discredit the PVV’s good reputation.

Wilders’ decision was probably a wise one. “Right-wing” politics in Europe can be a hit-or-miss affair, with unsavory, racist, anti-semitic, and/or fascist elements lurking in the shadows (or at times more prominently).
Wilders himself has been accused of being unsavory. The British government even barred him from entering England. However, I find nothing beyond the pale in Wilders’ views, and I agree with most of the major ones I’ve seen or heard him express.
Wilders defends Dutch sovereignty by, among other things, opposing the EU’s centralizing policies. He defends Dutch identity by opposing the Islamization of the Netherlands. He seeks to accomplish this by, among other things, halting Islamic immigration. He also favors deporting immigrants who commit crimes, or who call for jihad or the imposition of Islamic law.
Wilders is a harsh critic of the Koran. It was his film on the subject, “Fitna,” that got him banned in Britain. I have seen “Fitna.” It seems like “fair comment” to me. Indeed, it simply presents comments contained in the Koran and various jihadist speeches. It’s not Wilders’ fault that these comments make people feel uncomfortable or worse.
Wilders is strongly pro-American, pro-Israel, and pro-free market. As Belien observes, these positions contribute to his lack of popularity with the European media, but don’t seem to bother voters.
On June 9 of this year, the Netherlands will hold its parliamentary elections. A poll taken yesterday by Dutch state television predicts that Wilders will gain 24 of the 150 parliamentary seats, which would make the PVV the third most represented party in the country. However, according to Belien, the De Hond poll, which many consider to be the Netherlands’ most respected, predicted yesterday that the PVV will win 27 seats, the most of any party.
Either way, I think it’s fair to say, as Belien does, that “Geert Wilders is currently the most interesting political phenomenon in Europe.”

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