The Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders arrives in Britain today on the crest of an electoral triumph that could mean him entering government in a matter of months.
Mr Wilders’s Freedom Party made big gains in Dutch local elections this week, widely regarded as a dress rehearsal for the national poll on June 9.
He has been invited to the House of Lords by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the UKIP leader, to show his controversial film Fitna. This has already provoked widespread anger for its crude juxtaposition of extremist atrocities, such as beheadings and the 9/11 attacks, with verses from the Koran.
The Freedom Party, founded by Mr Wilders in 2005, won in the town of Almere, near Amsterdam, and came second in The Hague, the only two places in which it fielded a candidate out of 394 cities and towns, aiming for maximum impact with minimum campaigning.
Opinion polls show him vying for the national lead with the Christian Democrats, whose coalition Government collapsed last month after the Labour Party walked out in a row over keeping Dutch troops in Afghanistan.
“Today Almere and The Hague, tomorrow the whole of the Netherlands. This is our springboard for success in parliamentary elections,” said Mr Wilders, who campaigned in Almere for a ban on the wearing of headscarves in public. “We are going to take the Netherlands back from the leftist elite that comforts criminals and supports Islamisation.”
Mr Wilders, distinctive with his dyed platinum hair, has progressively picked up support from disenchanted Dutch voters by using fiery rhetoric about ending immigration, as the Muslim population in the Netherlands has grown to one million. He has compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and faces criminal charges for inciting hatred in a trial that was put on hold during the election campaign.
Mr Wilders was banned from Britain by Jacqui Smith, the former Home Secretary, but restrictions were overturned on appeal and today will mark his second visit since then.
After his success in Almere, where his party won the largest share of the vote with 21.6 per cent, Mr Wilders told Muslims that they had nothing to fear “as long as they obey the law”.
Kadriye Kacar, 35, a computer sciences student who was born in the Netherlands and lives in Almere, said: “We can feel the change already, people are looking at us in a new way today as if they are thinking, ‘We won and you are leaving’.
“I don’t wear a headscarf normally, but I have decided to start doing so now out of protest.”
Mr Wilders is expected to be involved in the talks to form the next Dutch coalition government after the June election. Unlike in other European Union countries such as Belgium, there is no cordon sanitaire barring a party seen as extremist from forming alliances. A place in government would emulate the success of the far-right Danish People’s Party, the country’s third-largest, which captured 25 parliamentary seats on a 13.8 per cent share of the vote and entered the coalition.
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