Thu May 7th, 2009 at 05:48:48 AM EST
Like Britain's BNP, Geert Wilders represents the xenophobic hard-right in the Netherlands. But unlike the BNP, Geert Wilders and his party, Party for Freedom, have already become a mainstream party in the Netherlands. Wilders' party is represented in the Dutch Parliament with nine seats - a disheartening surprise during the 2006 parliamentary elections. What's more, recent projections show that Wilders' party is the most favoured party in the Netherlands, with a projected 32 seats - what would make it the biggest party. And he's participating in the European Elections.
Coupled to a dearth of visibility from European politicians, partly by a lack of interest from Dutch media, next month's European elections could spell certain victory for Wilders' rabid anti-European party. Paradoxically, it is committed to the European Parliament with the ultimate aim to disband it - to press the self-destruct switch of democracy.
Rise of the PVV
Wilder's party has been on the march ever since 2004, when Geert Wilders withdrew his membership of the liberal people's party, the VVD, and began his own party. His rise ultimately spelled the total eradication of other hard-right parties in the 2006 elections, such as the dismal remnants of the Pim Fortuyn List and ambitious newcomers, such as Marco Pastors (a former Fortuyn protégé). And while I've no love lost to see those parties go, Wilders' party has actually nudged the Overton Window further to the right due to Wilders' successful outspokenness against Islam.
The past 2.5 years, the party has pressed a stamp on national politics, even although they mainly choose to consistently go it alone and refuse coalition building with other parties. In The Hague, parliament members can initiate proposals to change policies. In comparison to other parties, the PVV is slacking in this. What the party is better at, is piling amendments on already proposed policies - although they dominantly lose these amendments during votes. Yet the PVV is at its best at generating media publicity, and that's where the party wins strategically.
One of the more recent examples was at the end of March, during the presentation of the coalition's renewed design to tackle the economic slump - which took a few weeks of typical Dutch negotiations behind closed doors. After the government's presentation of the new pact in Parliament, and making clear that there was little wiggle space to alter major directions, Wilders grabbed the microphone and announced, characteristically overblown, that he and his colleagues would no longer attend a session where government did not allow parliament to make changes. All PVV members then symbolically left parliament. Guess who had the spotlight that evening in the news? A week later, Wilders' party had gained a few more percentages in popularity.
What is PVV?
What many people don't realise enough is the autocratic character of the party. The PVV consists of exactly one member: Geert Wilders. He sets the policies, regulates the internal funding and doesn't allow membership expansion. This is unlike most other Dutch political parties, except for that other, now almost forgotten, populist politician: the iron Rita Verdonk and her party TON (Proud on the Netherlands). Hence to understand the PVV, it is worthwhile to explore what Geert Wilders stands for.
So what does Geert Wilders believe? In his own words, he describes himself as a "libertarian" and his greatest political role-model is Margaret Thatcher. Wilders likes to refer to or quote Mark Steyn a lot, when it comes to demographics. He renounces fascist parties, such as those by Le Pen and Haider, and next flirts with the Republicans in the States, and joins the table at Fox News for a chat with Bill O'Reilly.
Probably the one thing that gets my hackles on one end is his persistence in wanting to alter the first article of the Dutch Constitution and abandon equality under the law, outlining that Christian, Jewish and humanist traditions should form the core of the Netherlands. A great way to single out Islam (and hence Muslims), although Wilders rejects that he is a racist.
Yet it must be said loud and clear: his greatest platform, his large following, and his reputation abroad have been built on renouncing anything related to Islam. And this is part of the source of his popularity in the Netherlands, where xenophobic blockheads always have had a gathering, but never before had such an outlet. The other not dismissible part that contributes to the rise of Wilders' soaring popularity, is that IMO Wilders has shaped himself, and his party, into the perfect opposition vote. Wilders has a keen talent in voicing the underbelly of the Dutch population - and the EU is not overwhelmingly popular for a variety of reasons. In fact, Wilders has been able to outmatch even the Socialist Party who traditionally kept the part as opposition, anti-EU party. (There is no time for a proper analysis between the Socialist Party and the PVV, but it should be briefly mentioned that in regard to populist sentiments both parties share a large overlap, particularly directed against the European Union.)
Political developments in the Netherlands have often preceded similar developments in European countries - and therefore this might not be good news for progressive Europe. Wilders has announced to participate in next year's municipal elections in at least four cities, among others Rotterdam, where Marco Pastors, still participating in the council, is crying bloody murder: Pastors, as well as anyone else on the right flank, knows that in current position, Wilders will bury every other right-wing party. But first, the PVV has set aim for another target: the European Parliament.
Barry Madlener, PVV campaign leader, and Geert Wilders
Barry Madlener, who previously worked for the party of Marco Pastors and before that for Pim Fortuyn, is an estate agent turned politician. Leading the list of European candidates for PVV is his most ambitious task so far. Geert Wilders has actually made himself also a candidate - he's positioned at number ten. Not that Wilders will go to Brussels; it's just another way to garner votes for a campaign bereft of a familiar PVV face. Hence Wilders' prominent presence when the subject hits the European elections.
The PVV's present slogan "Less Europe, More Netherlands" feeds on the populist, anti-European sentiments that have come to the fore under Wilders' guidance, who heavily campaigned against the EU Constitution, then using the (even more whimsical) slogan: "Netherlands Must Stay!"
Their website lists a few items that should convince most people that populism, not realism, is here at work:
- Romania and Bulgaria should be evicted from the EU
- No more enlargement, and Turkey should never be allowed to enter the EU
- Halting the "Islamification" of Europe
- Demanding "our" money back: no more roads in Portugal from Dutch money
And so on. But ultimately, although this is not so clear from the website, the PVV would like to see the reduction of 26 of the 27 EU portfolios: only trade can stay. The rest should be left to its own devices (which ones are, predictably, left unclear). In 2005, Wilders made clear in a large epistle that he envisions both the European Commission and the European Parliament as unnecessary constructs, and that ultimately both should be dissolved. I don't think he has yet been critically approached with the question why he sees it fit to participate in elections for what he sees as a redundant institute, but there it is. In the meantime, Madlener regurgitates like a well-trained boy:
Islamization Watch: Dutch politician Wilders to contest European elections
Madlener said "Europe should not become a super state, but limit itself to economic cooperation. The 2005 referendum about a European constitution also demonstrated that this is what the people want."
In 2005, a 54,9 majority of Dutch nationals voted against a European constitution.
Madlener said the PVV would prefer the European Parliament ultimately to be abolished.
"The European Union should only have an economic function. Legislation and law enforcement belongs to the national arena."
The Freedom Party is also very critical of the EU's financial system.
"The Dutch are financing road building in Portugal and Poland while traffic problems increase in the Netherlands. We want our money back," Madlener said.
Ever the isolationist, Wilders has announced that the European PVV fraction will not join a particular political block, and will stand alone. The PVV will not get even close to the votes in the near future to propose a resolution to disband the European Parliament, but in the meantime there is hardly a more self-centred, egotistical, Islam-bashing group of people in the Netherlands that threatens the European progressive block, and the bad news is: they're on the rise.