Known for his distinctive platinum-blond hairstyle and his aggressive anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric, Geert Wilders has been catapulted by the Dutch elections to the place he loves most to be: at the centre of attention.
In a political earthquake, Wilders’ Freedom party was on course late on Wednesday to win the most votes in the country’s parliamentary elections, opening the way for the politician to play a key role in the formation of the next government after an election dominated by debate over immigration.
From describing Islam as “an ideology of a retarded culture” and calling Moroccans “scum”, Wilders, who is often compared to former US president Donald Trump for his inflammatory rhetoric and use of social media, has long been a prominent fixture in the European far-right landscape.
Born in 1963 in southern Venlo, close to the German border, Wilders grew up in a Catholic family with his brother and two sisters. He entered politics as a member of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), but left over what he saw as the party’s mild stance on Islam and immigration.
He founded the Freedom party (PVV) in 2004, placing anti-Islam policies at the heart of his party. Wilders said his disdain for Islam was fuelled by the assassination of the radical anti-Islam film-maker Theo van Gogh in 2004 and his time spent in Israel on a kibbutz.
Despite being a media-savvy politician, Wilders’ star appeared to have faded in recent years as younger far-right figures emerged in the Netherlands, including Thierry Baudet, whose nationalist Forum for Democracy came top of the polls with 15% in the 2019 regional elections.
But Wilders’ consistent presense in Dutch politics – as well asincreasingly heated debate over immigration in the Netherlands – seems to have finally struck a chord among a larger group. [Continue reading…]