Row after four MPs wear badges in Dutch parliament featuring neo-Nazi insignia
Wilders asked to distance himself from extremists who gave Nazi salutes at Freedom Party rally in The Hague
Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party. Photograph: Michel Porro/Getty Images
A row has broken out over four MPs of Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party who wore badges in the Dutch parliament this week featuring a well-known neo-Nazi insignia which has links to the country’s infamous national socialist party of the 1930s.
The display came on Thursday after exchanges the previous day when the leader of the centre-left D66 party, Alexander Pechtold, called on Mr Wilders to distance himself from extremists who waved the Prinsen flag and gave Nazi salutes at a Freedom Party rally in The Hague last weekend.
Against an all-time high in opinion polls, the rally was the start of what Mr Wilders has promised will be a popular backlash against EU austerity measures “imposed” by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s trailing Liberal-Labour coalition government “at the behest of” Brussels.
He has also revealed plans for an alliance of right-wing parties – including the National Front in France, Alternative for Germany, and the Northern League in Italy – to fight European Parliament elections next May, a strategy supported recently by National Front leader Marine Le Pen.
Spats in parliament featuring Geert Wilders are nothing new, but his exchanges with Mr Pechtold were unusually bad-tempered and vitriolic.
When Mr Pechtold asked how he felt about Ms Le Pen’s belief that “Jewish skull caps should be banned”, Mr Wilders replied by describing Mr Pechtold as “a sad, miserable, hypocritical, little man” whose question was “too miserable to be taken seriously”.
The Freedom Party leader said he was “proud” of last weekend’s rally, and “proud of everyone who attended it”.
However, he did qualify that: “It goes without saying that the PVV [Freedom Party] and its thousands of supporters have nothing to do with extremism or anti-Semitism. The PVV has nothing to do with that sort of idiocy.”
The following day, however, the four MPs – including Martin Bosma, one of Mr Wilders’s closest associates – sat together in parliament wearing badges featuring the Prinsen flag, which is virtually identical to the Dutch flag except that its red horizontal bar is replaced with an orange one.
The Prinsen flag was first carried by followers of William of Orange in the 80 Years War against Spain in the 16th century, and is still used by extreme right-wing groups such as Stormfront. It was adopted by the national socialists during the 1930s because of its links with “a golden age” for the Netherlands. Because of those Nazi associations, it was replaced with the current flag in 1937 on the instructions of Queen Wilhelmina, who fled to London during the war.
Mr Wilders has refused to comment, as in 2011 when the Prinsen flag was photographed in his party’s offices.