Netherlands: Geert Wilders rages until he wins the election

Geert Wilders has won the elections in the Netherlands. The right-wing populist is committed to the issues of Islam, migration and Europe.

“Nobody expected this, not even the winner himself,” commented the Dutch newspaper “Trouw” on Geert Wilders’ victory in the early parliamentary elections. After decades of agitation against migrants, Islam and the EU, the 60-year-old right-wing populist has achieved a great triumph in his sixth attempt: his party PVV is the strongest force in the new parliament.

Now Wilders wants to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte. However, this will be a tricky task as he needs coalition partners. Leading representatives of other major parties said before the election that they would not help Wilders become head of government.

Wilders is considered the “Dutch Trump” – and not just because he looks similar to ex-US President Donald Trump with his dyed-blonde quiff. Wilders’ slogan “Netherlands first” is also reminiscent of Trump’s slogan “America first”, as is his inhumane rhetoric.

Geert Wilders calls Moroccans “scum”

Moroccans are “scum” for Wilders; he organized competitions for caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. His mission is to stop the West’s supposed “Islamic invasion.” In one of the last election debates, Wilders moderated his tone somewhat. There are “bigger problems than fighting the flood of asylum seekers and immigrants,” he said, agreeing to put his views on Islam “in the freezer” in order to govern.

But his PVV’s election program speaks a different language. “Asylum seekers feast on wonderful free buffets on cruise ships, while Dutch families have to save on food,” it says. The PVV wants to ban Islamic schools, the Koran and mosques, introduce border controls and deport Syrian asylum seekers.

According to Wilders’ idea, EU citizens should also have to apply for a work permit again. But he would even prefer to do as the British did with their Brexit and leave the European Union. Wilders’ program calls for a “binding referendum” on a “Nexit”.

Son of a half-Indonesian woman

Wilders was born in Venlo on the German border in 1963 and grew up in a Catholic family with his brother and two sisters. His mother was half Indonesian, something Wilders mostly hides. He is married to a Hungarian woman.

In the 1980s, Wilders became interested in politics, as his older brother Paul told Der Spiegel magazine. “Back then he was neither clearly left nor right, nor was he xenophobic. But he was fascinated by the political game: the fight for power and influence.” In 1998 he joined the liberal VVD.

Wilders’ anger against Islam developed gradually. He spent time in Israel on a kibbutz and experienced the tensions with the Palestinians. The murders of the right-wing extremist politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and the radical anti-Islam filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 also influenced him, as he writes in his books.

Convicted of insult

Wilders vowed not to be silenced despite being convicted of insulting Moroccan-Dutch citizens. This high-profile trial helped him gain greater notoriety just a few months after Brexit and shortly after Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

In 2006, Wilders left the VVD to form his own party, which became the second largest force in parliament in 2017 and fell to third place in 2021.

Wilders is a master at playing the media keyboard. He succeeded in shifting the political discourse to the right and dividing the country, which has a long tradition of multicultural tolerance.

For many Dutch people, Wilders is therefore a hate figure. He receives death threats and only moves around with police protection, which is why he has little contact with the outside world. His brother described him as lonely and isolated. When he’s not spreading Islamophobic insults on online networks, he likes to post pictures of his cats.