Analysis. The Party of Freedom, led by the half-Indonesian Geert Wilders, is the most popular party in the Netherlands. But its extreme anti-Islam campaign is dividing the country.

Netherlands’ leading party campaigns against ‘Moroccan scum’

He has been compared to Marine Le Pen, but actually Geert Wilders’ provocative and aggressive style is more like that of Donald Trump: He doesn’t hesitate to provoke scandal, resorting to invectives and an openly racist vocabulary. This has shaken the country with a genuine tide of hatred.

Wilders is the leader of the Party for Freedom, PVV, a xenophobic and anti-Islamic party leading the polls in Dutch parliamentary elections to be held on March 15. He started his election campaign in the town of Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, with a series of alarming claims. ”If you want to regain your country, if you want to make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands, your own home again, than you can only vote [for the Freedom party],” said the exponent of the new right in front of a small crowd, adding, “there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe, mostly young people … and that should change.”

His extreme tone has helped make him one of the most popular politicians in the Netherlands, where PVV could gain nearly 30 seats, out of a total of 150. That would be more than 20 percent of the consensus. He leads by several points the liberal-conservatives of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, which has formed a “grand coalition” government with Labour since 2012.

Behind Wilders and Rutte, polls show the Christian Democrats and Social-Liberals with around 11 percent, while the Labour party is has less than 10 percent, followed by the Socialist Party, a former Maoist organization, and by Groen-Links, the greens led by the young Jesse Klaver, one of the emerging figures of the local left.

However, Wilders’ victory could prove to be exclusively symbolic, given that the other forces are not willing to govern with the PVV. The fact remains that its racism continues to divide the country and fuels a climate of unease, which ultimately benefits the racist right which has quadrupled its followers within a decade.

In this context, a few days ago the PVV suspended campaign rallies because an investigation had been opened into one of his security agents, a 35-year-old of Moroccan origin suspected of having contact with criminals. On Twitter, Wilders said he felt threatened.

Wilders, 54, is the son of a mixed-race couple, a Dutch father and Indonesian mother. Even in his position as former assistant to the liberal politician Frits Bolkestein, who directed E.U. liberalization, Wilders has built his entire career in the name of open racism and Islamophobia, encouraging, with the complicity of center-right political forces, the entry of identity into the public debate. For example, a recent study found that nearly 40 percent of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants, the two largest groups in a country where about 11 percent of the population is of foreign origin, does not feel accepted within the Dutch society.

Today, the main points of the PVV program include Nexit (a Netherlands exit from the E.U.) and a referendum on the euro. Some other proposals of the program are: to close mosques, to tax Muslim women who wear the veil and to ban the Koran, which Wilders has compared to Mein Kampf. But the fundamental keystone remains the rejection of immigrants coming from Muslim countries.

Wilders has been tried and convicted several times for inciting racial hatred. Nevertheless he has not hesitated to speak on several occasions of the Netherlands as a country “colonized by Muslims.” In 2010, he made a short film, “Fitna,” in which he claimed that fundamentalist violence was inspired by the Koran.

The racist politician with bleached hair is betting everything on his claim that Islam is a threat to Islam and the need to return to a cohesive society. While the Netherlands has seemed to suffer less than others from the economic crisis, it hasn’t forgotten the murders of right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and filmmaker Theo van Gogh two years later, both killed for their open criticism of Islam.

The MP Martin Bosma, considered the PVV’s ideologue, has indicated the general horizon of the country’s new main political force. Bosma lashed out at the alleged cultural hegemony of the left, which seeks to impose multiculturalism, mass migration and a growing Islamic presence on Western societies. He said that if Muslim immigration is not stopped, the Dutch will suffer the same fate of whites in South Africa, who, he says, were overwhelmed by blacks after the end of apartheid.

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