Geert Wilders, who is perhaps better known for his anti-Islam stance (and his hair) than for any other policy, has made significant gains in two Gemeentes (councils) in the Netherlands. Candidates for his party the PVV, de Partij Voor Vrijheid (freedom Party) made gains in Almere and in the Hague, the Netherlands’ seat of parliament. This is being treated as a prediction for the possible outcome of the general election which takes place in three months.
It is difficult to extrapolate from success in only two councils, which may have been carefully chosen by the PVV on the strength of how much anti-Islam feeling can be generated in a particular area, but it is a sign that cultural tensions that have simmered in the Netherlands are capable of being translated into votes. Wilders’ stance on the integration of Islam into the Netherlands, and the threat he claims it poses for the country (and western democracy in general) has received sympathy among some who feel multiculturalism has failed.
Less highlighted is the ordinary neo-liberal economic programme of Wilders, which hankers for cuts to social spending and tax cutting policies; the PVV is mostly seen as an ‘anti-Islam’ platform.
In the Hague demonstrations were already taking place, with people gathering to protest the possible gains of Wilders manifesting itself into a ban on the Muslim veil. As part of the protest many of the protesters arrived wearing improvised headscarves.
Nationally, gains were also made for the GreenLeft and also smaller parties like the ‘liberal’ D66 and in some cases also the socialist party.