Rhetoric against Geert Wilders ratchets up in the Netherlands

Right-wing leader called ‘threat to democracy’ as politicians fret at anti-migrant threats

Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders: said that if a bullet came “from the left”,  he would know where it came from. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders: said that if a bullet came “from the left”, he would know where it came from. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

 

Right-wing politician Geert Wilders has been described as “a threat to democracy and the rule of law” in the Netherlands after calling for “resistance” to the establishment of refugee centres to house migrants from Iraq and Syria.

The condemnation by the chairman of the Labour Party, Hans Spekman, came as a new survey showed that hundreds of local councillors are considering giving up politics because of credible physical threats against themselves and their families.

Riot police have been used in a number of towns and villages to prevent angry protesters disrupting council meetings called to identify premises suitable for housing the refugee – some 200,000 of whom arrived in the country during 2015.

Mr Spekman said he was particularly concerned at the emergence of what he described as “militias”, groups of people dressed in similar informal uniform, whose aim appeared to be to shout down anyone attempting to voice their support for the migrants in public.

“That is extremely dangerous,” he said. “Consultation is part of the democratic process, and that process is being damaged. We cannot allow that to happen.”

Labour’s chairman also described Mr Wilders’s warning that there would be “a revolt” if other political parties refused to work with him to form a coalition government after the general election scheduled for March 2017 as “very stupid and unwise”.

At least three parties will be needed to form a government, and although Mr Wilders’s Freedom Party is currently polling at between 22 per cent and 27 per cent of the vote, the other main parties say they will refuse to co-operate with Mr Wilders to put him in power.

Suffering in polls

Mr Spekman’s Labour Party is currently the junior coalition partner in government with prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals, and is suffering in the polls as a result of the migrant crisis and a still-faltering economy.

The war of words continued on Thursday night as Mr Wilders accused Mr Spekman of attempting to “demonise” him. If a bullet came “from the left”, he said, he would know where it came from.

“We saw what happened when they demonised Pim Fortuyn, ” he declared, referring to the far-right anti-Islam politician who was shot dead while electioneering in 2002.

Meanwhile, research by the local councillors’ association, NVR, which has 2,600 members, showed that seven per cent say they want to quit “in the near future”, while 12 per cent say they have doubts about running for election again.

One councillor was sent a bullet recently. Another had two family cars set on fire. Others have received death threats by telephone and threats and abuse on social media.

“Threats against myself I can deal with,” said one councillor. “Threats against my wife and children are too much.”