By Bruno Waterfield, www.telegraph.co.uk
The far-right politician Geert Wilders is poised to become the next Dutch prime minister after making major gains in regional elections. Municipal results announced in March put his party in first place in Almere, a region near Amsterdam, and second in The Hague, one the country’s largest cities and the seat of the Dutch government.
If repeated in national elections on June 9, the Freedom Party could win 27 out of 150 seats, becoming the largest single party and putting Wilders in line to become prime minister and form a new government.
Wilders has called Islam a backward religion, wants a ban on headscarves in public life, and has compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
“We are going to conquer the entire country we are going to be the biggest party in the country,” he said after the vote.
“The leftist elite still believes in multiculturalism, coddling criminals, a European superstate, and high taxes. But the rest of the Netherlands thinks differently. That silent majority now has a voice.”
The Freedom Party currently has nine of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, and five of the country’s 25 European parliament seats. But some polls suggest it is now the most popular party in Holland, traditionally seen as a bastion of tolerance.
The Dutch political mainstream made clear its outrage at the election results. NRC Handelsblad, the Dutch newspaper of record, observed: “The Dutch political system, based on consensus and co-operation, is coming apart at the seams.”
Muslims in Almere, where one third of the 190,000 population is of immigrant origin, reacted with shock and anger to his party’s success, fearing his victory would fan animosity.
“It is terrible,” said computer sciences student Kadriye Kacar, 35, who was born in Holland but is of Turkish descent. “People are looking at us in a new way today as if they are thinking – ‘We won and you are leaving’.
“I don’t wear a headscarf normally but I have decided to start doing so now out of protest. Other people in my community are planning to do the same. We will protest until Wilders is gone.”
Wilders popularity has grown since he was banned from entering Britain last year. He was arrested and deported after being declared a threat to public safety.
The bar has now been lifted and he showed his anti-Muslim film, Fitna, in the House of Lords, at the invitation of invitation of Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the UKIP (UK Independent Party) leader and Baroness Cox, a cross-bench peer.
“I do not agree with Geert Wilders that the Koran should be banned – even in Holland where Mein Kampf is banned. I don’t want it banned but discussed and specifically as to whether it may promote or justify – or has promoted or justified – violence. I am therefore promoting freedom of speech,” said Lord Pearson.
Wilders is facing prosecution in Holland for “inciting hatred” with the controversial film which depicts the Koran burning and focuses on the links between Islam and terrorism.