Close adviser to Geert Wilders resigns from Freedom Party
Series of resignations follows row over anti-Moroccan chanting at rally
Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders speaks during an interview in The Hague on April 17th. REUTERS/Michael Kooren
One month from the European elections, Dutch right-wing leader Geert Wilders suffered another major setback yesterday when one of his closest advisers resigned – suggesting as he left that a row over anti-Moroccan chanting had left his party marginalised.
The Freedom Party has lost its dominant position in the polls and there have been a series of resignations, including the loss of two MPs, since Mr Wilders led the chanting at a rally last month – the first time he’d focused on a particular nationality rather than on “Muslims”.
National outrage, even among his own more conservative supporters, has prompted suggestions that the chanting was a huge political gaffe – which could effectively put paid to plans for a pan-European right-wing Euro-election alliance with Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France.
The resignation last month of Laurence Stassen, the party’s leader in the European Parliament, was a serious blow. But yesterday’s departure of Stephan Jansen, Mr Wilders’ personal policy adviser and former friend, an elected member of Zuid Holland provincial council, strikes at the heart of the party.
It’s all the more damaging because Mr Jansen, who has been a key strategist since 2006, set out the reasoning behind his decision in a letter to rank-and-file members and party workers, placing the blame squarely on “Mr Wilders” – as he referred to him – himself.
“The recent statements about Moroccans made by our political leader, Mr Wilders, have ensured that our party will never be taken seriously again”, said the letter.
“No other political party will work with us because of those statements”, wrote Jansen, referring to the decision by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals and the other major parties not to co-operate with the Freedom Party unless Mr Wilders apologises for the chanting row – something he has refused to do.
The practical effect of that boycott, he suggested, was that “a vote for the Freedom Party has become a vote for the left”.
That was because “political partners such as the Liberals and the Christian Democrats are being forced into the arms of a left-wing party as a coalition partner – because in their view there is no acceptable right-wing partner available now.”
A recent “poll of polls” – a weighted average of the Netherlands’ four main political polls – confirmed the damage done by the chanting controversy.