According to the foreign press he is a “Dutch Trump” and a “firebrand” with peroxide blond hair who won a shock victory in the 2023 general election. In the Netherlands he has been part of the political scene for over 25 years. Here’s what you need to know about Geert Wilders.
Wilders was born in Venlo in September 1963 as the youngest of four children. His father was deputy director of photocopier company Océ and had been in hiding as a child during World War II. His mother was born in Indonesia and is claimed by some to be half Indonesian.
When he was 17 he spent a year on a kibbutz in Israel before returning to the Netherlands and passing college qualifications in insurance and some Open University courses in law.
He married Krisztin, a Hungarian of Jewish origin, in Budapest in 1992. According to his Dutch parliamentary profile, she is his second wife. The couple have no children, but own two cats which Wilders likes to wheel out for children’s tv shows.
Wilders was first elected to Utrecht city council in 1997 on behalf of the VVD, and a year later took a seat in parliament. He spent four years with the VVD but was expelled in 2004 for espousing increasingly radical views on Islam and refusing to follow the party line in supporting EU talks on Turkish membership.
He stayed in parliament as an independent and then set up his own party, the PVV. He was able to capitalise on the vacuum left by the murder of the flamboyant populist politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002. In 2006, the PVV won nine seats in the general election.
In 2010 the PVV won 25 seats and agreed to prop up the minority coalition of the VVD – led by Mark Rutte – and CDA. The government collapsed 18 months later when Wilders refused to sign up to an €14 billion budget cuts package triggered by the financial crisis.
Geert Wilders is the longest serving Dutch MP, with four years as a member for the VVD, two as an independent and 18 as leader of the PVV.
Wilders lives under constant security
Wilders had had heavy personal security since 2004, when he and fellow MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali were said to be the targets of a foiled bomb plot. He has, it is reported, a ring of 14 security guards, day in, day out.
He has no door key to his heavily guarded home and if he goes to the cinema, he arrives as the lights go out and leaves before they go on again. Barbie is the last film he saw, the AD said in a recent profile.
Henk and Ingrid
In 2008 Wilders introduced the concept of Henk and Ingrid, two “ordinary” Dutch nationals who are paying for all the costs which “Mohammed and Fatima” have created.
In 2008 he created a short film called Fitna filled with imagery of the September 11 attacks and in which he called the Qur’an a fascist book. This sparked violent protests and led to Wilders being banned from entering Britain in 2009, although the ban was overturned on appeal.
Head rag tax
In 2009 Wilders called for the introduction of a €1,000 tax on headscarves during debates on the government’s 2010 budget plans. “I would call it a head rag tax”, he said.
Support for Israel
In 2010 Wilders gave a speech in Tel Aviv in which he said Jordan should be the only Palestinian state and said all Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories should move there. He also called for more Israeli settlements on the West Bank, which he called Judea/Samaria.
In 2014 Wilders led a chant at a pre-election meeting in which he asked his audience if they would like “more or fewer Moroccans”. The chant continued until Wilders said: “then we will sort that out for you”. Wilders end up with a criminal record for breaking the law by “group insult” but was acquitted of inciting hatred.
The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court and ended with Wilders saying he would not be silenced and that the court ruling was ‘corrupt’. In 2017, Wilders filed an official police complaint accusing prime minister Mark Rutte of illegally discriminating against Dutch people.
In the 2015 budget debates he called for a closure of the Dutch borders because of the surge in refugees escaping the war in Syria. “There is an enormous gap between this fake parliament – and the people at home,” he said. The term “nep” parliament was since taken up by other far right groups. He has also described journalists as “scum”.
The PVV has one member
The PVV might be the biggest party in parliament, with 37 MPs, but it only has one member – Geert Wilders. Nor does it hold an annual conference in which supporters can have their say.
Wilders, the AD said in an analysis, “is a control freak” and may well be worried about having so many newcomers around with 37 seats in parliament. “Nothing happens without his say so,” the paper said.
The PVV manifesto, whatever the election, usually just runs to one page. This time round it was a more weighty document, running to 45 pages. Among this year’s highlights:
- An end to discrimination against the native Dutch
- No more refugees, limits to the number foreign students and workers
- Cutting red tape to boost provision of housing, rent cuts and increase in housing benefits
- Increase in the minimum wage, but not specified how much
- A ban on mosques, Islamic schools and the Qur’an
- No dual nationality
- 0% value added tax on groceries
- Reduce the state pension age back to 65
- Life in jail should mean life
- 14-year-olds suspected of violent and sex crimes should be treated as adults
- No own-risk element in health insurance,
- No sugar tax, meat tax or tax on flying. Energy taxes to be cut
- Coal and gas-fired power plants to remain open, more nuclear power
- Financial help for poor elderly with sick pets
- Mayors to be elected by vote, the upper house of parliament to be scrapped
- End the “left-wing” hatred of heroes from history,
- Retract apologies for slavery, stop arts and culture subsidies
- Build more roads, maximum speed limit increased to 140 kph
- No more money for development aid
- Nexit referendum
2023 general election
During the 2023 election campaign Wilders tried to portray himself as a milder candidate and told Nieuwsuur he was prepared to put the policies that have defined his party for 25 years into cold storage, such as a ban on the Qur’an and closing Islamic schools.
After emerging as the big winner, Wilders was quick to give a victory speech. The general election results show that the voters of the Netherlands have had enough, he said. “The Dutchman will be back in first place… The Netherlands has hope… the people of the Netherlands will get their country back and the tsunami of refugees and immigrants will be limited.”
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