Dutch lap up Wilders' hardline message
- 26 April 2014
In the Netherlands many polls are predicting the maverick anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) will win the European elections being held on 22 May.
And a recent race row - he told supporters a vote for the PVV would mean fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands - may have done him more good than harm.
This talk is too extreme for many - so what explains his appeal to Dutch voters? I took a spin around The Hague on my bike to find out.
Geert Wilders' Moroccan comments provoked an avalanche of criticism. High-profile PVV members quit, accusing their leader of going too far. More than 5,000 people filed complaints to the public prosecutor, calling for Mr Wilders to be charged with inciting racial hatred.
But this week an email from the PVV appeared in my inbox: "43% of the Dutch want fewer Moroccans", it said, according to an independent poll it had commissioned. It seems Mr Wilders has turned the criticism to his advantage. Citing the findings of his own survey, Mr Wilders can once again claim that he is the only politician unafraid to discuss the real concerns of Dutch voters.
Indeed, the Wilders-coined phrase "the Moroccan problem" is being increasingly heard here.
He also fuses his traditional anti-immigration rhetoric with Euroscepticism - an intense revulsion of sovereign power being eroded by what he refers to as "the monster in Brussels". And it's a message finding a receptive audience in the austerity-struck Netherlands.