Dutch PM Rutte: 'If you don't like it here, then leave'

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Mr Rutte's statement on the VVD websiteImage source, VVD
Image caption,
Mr Rutte's blunt message was published in several newspapers and on his party's website

Weeks before Dutch voters go to the polls, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said that anyone who rejects the country's values should leave.

"Act normal, or go away," he says, in a message seen as taking on the anti-immigration Freedom party currently running high in the opinion polls.

The Dutch felt increasingly uncomfortable with people who abused the very freedom they came in search of, Mr Rutte argued.

Elections are taking place on 15 March.

Geert Wilders' Freedom party (PVV) is running neck-and-neck in the polls with Mr Rutte's liberal VVD and branded Mr Rutte's message as a downright lie. "The man of open borders, asylum tsunami, mass immigration, Islamisation, lies and deceit," Mr Wilders tweeted.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Geert Wilders (C) has found common cause with right-wing and far-right leaders across Europe

But even if Mr Wilders wins the election he will struggle to form a coalition, after Mr Rutte ruled out forming a government with the PVV.

Political commentators pointed out that the election was now being run on the national mood rather than traditional issues such as the economy and the government's handling of the financial crisis.

Last week Conservative CDA leader Sybrand Buma accused the prime minister, who came to power in October 2010, of presiding over a "moral crisis".

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Mr Rutte's full-page ad appeared on Monday in several Dutch newspapers and he gave further details in an interview with the daily, Algemeen Dagblad (AD).

He singled out the case of bus company Qbuzz that was censured by the Dutch human rights institute for turning down an immigrant applying for the job of bus driver because he refused to shake women's hands. It found that shaking hands was not a key part of the job whereas the man's freedom of religion was affected.

"I think it's a bizarre verdict," he told AD. "Qbuzz is of course absolutely right. Surely a driver can't say 'I refuse to shake a woman's hand because it doesn't fit my beliefs'?

"That's precisely why I and many other people are rebelling. Because the norm here is that you shake hands with each other."

Taking on Wilders - by Anna Holligan, BBC News, The Hague

This is an uncompromising message from the Netherlands' king of consensus, published in the papers on a black background for maximum impact.

Mark Rutte is seeking to reclaim territory that his liberal party has been losing to populist leader Geert Wilders' PVV.

Mr Wilders has been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. His campaign slogans include "Make the Netherlands Great Again" and "The Netherlands is Ours".

Mr Rutte also complained about anti-social behaviour on public transport and on the streets, but particularly targeted those who refused to adapt to Dutch values, harassed women in short skirts and gay men, and branded ordinary people as racists.

"If you live in a country where you get so annoyed with how we deal each other, you have a choice. Get out! You don't have to be here!"