Monday 23 May 2022

Are we now allowed to call Wilders a racist?

With his latest anti-Moroccan outburst, Geert Wilders may have blown his chances in the European elections, writes Robin Pascoe.

Even though his party only fielded candidates in The Hague and Almere, Geert Wilders must have hoped it was going to be his night.

The party was pretty well assured of remaining the biggest in the polder city and looked set to dominate in The Hague as well.

Fewer votes

In the event, support for the PVV fell in both places – almost one percentage point in Almere and 2.6 percentage points in The Hague. Only Labour and the VVD did worse in the city of peace and justice.

Wilders was prepared for triumph. He entered the party meeting in The Hague – once again – to Eye of the Tiger, the theme from the boxing film Rocky. The classic underdog looking to deliver a knock-out blow to the political establishment in The Hague.

He spoke of what a great night it was – even though the results that interested him were not yet out – and then came the chanting. ‘Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?,’ Wilders asked the crowd. They chanted ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’.

‘We’re going to organise it,’ Wilders said with a faint smile.

Condemnation

Condemnation was swift to come. Prime minister Mark Rutte said the comments ‘left a bad taste’ in his mouth – to which former MP Femke Halsema retorted: ‘you get that from weak beer, not racisim’.

Young Moroccans began a Twitter campaign picturing themselves with their passports and the hashtag #bornhere. The foreign press picked up the ‘anti-Moroccan chanting’.

Even Paul Jansen, the political commentator at right-wing daily De Telegraaf said Wilders’ behaviour had seriously overstepped the bounds of decency. ‘I think it is scandalous,’ Jansen said.

Desperation

So has Wilders lost the plot or finally revealed his true colours, after years of assuring the world he only opposed ‘criminal Moroccans’?

The PVV leader has already said he will sue anyone who compares him to Hitler. But Wednesday night’s chanting will have sent shivers down the spine of a lot of people who have seen footage of well-orchestrated Nazi party rallies.

Wilders was unrepentant the day after the elections, pointing out he broke no laws. ‘Critics can go and climb trees,’ he told reporters. All we need now is reference to monkeys.

What has been forgotten in all this is that the PVV has performed worse in the local elections, not better – which may do something to restore the Netherlands’ damaged reputation as a progressive country.

There was no victory dance in The Hague and the wide gap between the PVV and the other parties in Almere is only thanks to the collapse of Labour. One in five people in Almere may have voted for Wilders but 80% did not.

Not that Wilders probably cares. He has high hopes of the European elections, where he is hoping to form a parliamentary alliance with other anti-European parties. It would be interesting to see what some of his potential partners have to say about his latest outburst.

European elections

In 2009, the PVV won 17% of the vote in the European elections and took five of the Netherlands’ 26 seats. An Nos television poll on Wednesday evening showed the PVV is unlikely to do any better than that in the May European election ballot.

The abject racism of his anti-Moroccan stand of the last few days is unlikely to win him any new friends. But with any luck it may mean some of the more moderate PVV voters have second thoughts about putting their trust in someone with such little respect for common decency and democracy.

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