Anti-Immigrant Party Strong In Dutch Polls

Anti-Immigrant Party Strong in Dutch Polls

By Maarten Van Tartwijk
The Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2010

Dutch voters are turning out in slightly higher-than-usual numbers for local elections Wednesday which political observers are using to gauge the popularity of the right-leaning Party for Freedom and its outspoken leader, Geert Wilders, ahead of this summer's national elections.

In the past few years, the PVV, as the party is known, has made headlines with its tough stance on immigrants, and Muslims in particular. Mr. Wilders has made a series of dramatic but vague proposals that would restrict Muslim activities, such as somehow taxing Muslim women wearing a headscarf. He has also pledged to ban the Quran from mosques and homes and would only allow it in universities as a part of academic studies. He is currently awaiting trial for alleged hate speech against Muslims.

The local elections are held in nearly 400 municipalities, but the PVV is running for the city council in just two major cities: The Hague, the seat of government, and Almere, a midsize city close to Amsterdam. After a strong showing in the European Parliament elections last summer, the party is expected to record landslide victories in its first-ever municipal elections.

The Dutch government collapsed last week after Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos, leader of the Labour Party, pulled out of the ruling coalition to force the government to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. The Party of Freedom, or PVV, currently controls nine seats in the national parliament but is forecast to at least double that figure, according to a recent poll of Synovate, a research agency.

A victory for the PVV on a local level will indicate how the party will do nationally, said Andr Krouwel, a political scientist at the Free University in Amsterdam. 'Even more, he's participating in this election for the national exposure,' Mr. Krouwel said of Mr. Wilders.

Leaving his voting booth in The Hague Wednesday morning, Mr. Wilders told Dutch wire service ANP: 'The sun is shining, which fits well with the fresh views the PVV will bring to The Hague and Almere.'

Dilaver Delikay, the leader of the local Islam Democrats Party in The Hague, described the rise of the PVV as a 'bad thing.'

'Wilders wants to create a split in society, by using Muslims as a scapegoat for all the problems in the country. He won't be able to fulfil his promises and I'm perplexed by the support he gets,' he said.

Recent polls of research agency TNS NIPO showed that the PVV might become the second-largest party in The Hague and the biggest one in Almere. Based on Synovate's latest exit polls in the early afternoon, voter turnout in The Hague was almost 24%, slightly higher than the national average of 22%. The voting booths will close at 9 p.m. local time.


Dutch Anti-Immigrants Set to Make Gains in Vote
The Associated Press, March 3, 2010