Elections in the Netherlands are now only days away and all eyes are on the far-right Party for Freedom, which is anticipated to do very well in Wednesday’s vote. The party, led by infamous politician Geert Wilders, has been doing well in national polling and could gain the most seats in the House of Representatives. But what do stand for? Read on to find out…
The party’s history dates back to 2004, when founder and current leader Geert Wilders left the centre-right VVD after being expelled from their parliamentary party. He objected to the VVD’s support for Turkey’s accession to the European Union and formed a one-man party known as Group Wilders (Groep Wilders). By February 2006, the party became known as the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid – PVV) and nine months later they gained nine seats with roughly 6% of the vote in elections in November that year.
In 2008, Wilders produced and released a short film, Fitna, which attempted to show that the Qur’an, the central religious text of the Islamic faith, motivates his followers to hate all those who violate its teachings and encourages terrorism, violence against women and antisemitism. The film received widespread international condemnation, with Wilders being banned from entering the United Kingdom in 2009 (although this was later overturned on appeal).
By 2010, polling had suggested that the PVV would become the largest party in elections that year. The party came third, gaining 15 more seats, winning a total of 24. Although Wilders was excluded from coalition talks as the CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal) refused to co-operate with them, the party did play a role in supporting Rutte’s first cabinet.
In 2012, several representatives from the party , including Hero Brinkman, resigned from the PVV, citing a lack of democracy within the organisation, policies which generated negative generalisations of certain groups and Wilders’ leadership of the party.
Wilders pulled his party’s support for the VVD-CDA coalition over a budget which he claimed would jeapordise the Dutch economy, as it proposed millions of euros in austerity measures. Elections that same year saw the PVV lose nine seats in the House of Representatives.
The party leader has continually attracted controversy, most recently last month when he called some Moroccans living in the country ‘scum’.
The PVV is economically liberal and strongly conservative on issues such as immigration and culture. The party supports Judeo-Christian values and believes that immigrants to the Netherlands should adopt those same values when living and working in the country. They are also strongly eurosceptic, rejecting further enlargement to Muslim-majority countries and advocating for the Netherlands to both leave the EU and the single currency.
The party has twelve main points in its four year vision:
- ‘De-Islamise’ the Netherlands by:
- not accepting any more immigrants from Muslim countries
- carrying out preventative incarceration of radical Muslims
- closing all mosques and Muslim schools
- banning the Quar’an
- Leave the European Union
- Introduce direct democracy with binding referendums
- Eliminate deductables and excess in health insurance
- Reduce the cost of renting
- Reduce the age of retirement back to 65
- No more money for foreign aid, wind turbines, the arts, and public broadcasters
- Reverse budget cuts to care
- Provide greater funding for defense and police
- Reduce income tax
- 50% reduction in vehicle ownership taxes
WHAT DO THE POLLS SAY?
Seat projections up until March suggested the PVV would become the largest party, with as many as 37 seats in the House of Representatives. However, most recent polls show the party neck-and-neck with the centre-right VVD. Polls released today have the party projected to win between 20 and 24 seats. Whether this will be enough for Wilders to achieve his desire to lead the largest party in the Netherlands is unknown.