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Far-right Dutch leader prompts PM's exit

23 April 2012, 15:52

The Hague - Far-right Dutch leader Geert Wilders has a reputation for breaking with consensus politics, so it was perhaps no surprise that he should have been instrumental in bringing down the governing coalition.

Reviled and adored alike for his anti-Islamic rhetoric, the 48-year-old was back in the spotlight on Monday after his withdrawal of parliamentary backing effectively prompted Prime Minister Marc Rutte to tender his resignation.

It was just the latest chapter of controversy for a politician who has made clear his contempt for the mainstream, including the Dutch tradition of multi-cultural tolerance.

"We dare to talk about sensitive subjects like Islamisation and we use plain and simple words that the voter can understand," is how Wilders, creator of the anti-Islam film Fitna, explains his popularity.

His 17-minute commentary, featuring shocking imagery of attacks in New York in 2001 and Madrid in 2004 combined with quotes from the Qur'an, Islam's holy book, has drawn outrage in several Muslim countries.

It was released in March 2008 despite opposition from the Dutch government who feared it might spark a militant response similar to that which followed the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Leftist elite

He was acquitted by a Dutch court last year on hate speech charges, accused of promoting racial hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

Nicknamed "Mozart" for his platinum-dyed mop of hair, Wilders describes his far-right label as "nonsense", but displays no hesitation in branding the Qur'an a "fascist" book.

"My supporters say: 'at last there is someone who dares to say what millions of people think'. That is what I do," Wilders has said.

"People are fed up with the government; the leftist elite that has failed them."

He has been living under 24-hour protection for the past seven years due to death threats and is now regarded as the best protected man in the country.

Wilders started his political career in the Dutch liberal VVD party which he quit after 14 years in 2004, partly over its support at the time for Turkey's EU membership bid.

Biggest problem

Having started off as a policy advisor and speech writer for the VVD, Wilders was elected a municipal councillor in 1997 and a lawmaker the following year, becoming an independent member of parliament when leaving the party in 2004.

He created the PVV for parliamentary elections in 2006, campaigning to "limit the growth of Muslim numbers" in the Netherlands, and taking nine out of 150 seats.

This number jumped to 24 after 2010 polls where the PVV was an alliance partner of the VVD party and Christian Democrats (CDA).

Arguing that "Islam is the Netherlands' biggest problem", Wilders has urged parliament to ban the Koran, comparing it with Hitler's Mein Kampf.

He also wants to ban the full Muslim veil, halt immigration from Muslim countries and stop the construction of mosques in the Netherlands.

He was barred from entering Britain in 2009 to stop him spreading "hatred and violent messages".

Core business

"I want to defend freedom, which I think will disappear into thin air the moment the Islamic ideology gains a stronger foothold in this country," Wilders, who is married to a Hungarian, said.

"It is truly a mission and I personally pay a high price. For years, it has been all but comfortable."

Wilders' residential address is a closely guarded secret. He rarely ventures out in public, and never without a large security detail.

But this would never deter him, the politician said.

"Islam will always remain our core business."



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