The far-right, anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) has come out on top in the Dutch general elections, with its Islamophobic leader Geert Wilders declaring they can no longer be ignored.
With nearly all the votes counted after yesterday’s ballot, the PVV won 37 seats out of 150, well ahead of 25 for a joint Labour/Green ticket, and 24 for the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The number of seats of the Denk Party, the majority of whom are Turkish and Muslim, remained unchanged at three compared to the previous election.
In its manifesto, the PVV proposed a ban on Islamic schools, Qurans and mosques. They also want headscarves to be banned from government buildings.
However, Wilders is unlikely to become Prime Minister because of the reluctance of other parties to form a coalition with him.
Following his win, Wilders said: “We will govern the nation. I address other parties; the campaign is over, and the voters have spoken. Now we need to find similarities with each other. We need to work together. PVV has secured 35 seats that no party can ignore. We’re fed up. We want the Dutch to be in first place again, and we will make it happen,” he said, addressing his supporters after exit polls and initial results placed his party in first position.
In an attempt to soften his previous rhetoric, Wilders in a statement to public broadcaster NOS expressed his desire to be the prime minister for everyone, regardless of their ethnic origin or religion.
He also expressed hope that they could reach an agreement in coalition talks with other parties.
“I am hopeful. I understand that parties do not want a government that acts contrary to the Constitution. We won’t do that. We won’t talk about mosques, the Quran or Islamic schools. We will talk about giving priority back to the Dutch, the hope of the Dutch,” he said.
Wilders and his party’s anti-Islam, anti-EU platform ran on an anti-immigrant campaign with a hardline stance, including closing the borders and deporting undocumented immigrants.
The PVV manifesto declares: “Asylum seekers feast on delightful free cruise-ship buffets while Dutch families have to cut back on groceries.”
The PVV also called for an “immediate halt” to development aid and pursue a “Netherlands first” foreign policy.
Islamic and Moroccan organisations expressed concerns about Wilders’s victory. Muslims make up about 5 percent of the population in the Netherlands.
“The distress and fear are enormous,” Habib el-Kaddouri, who heads an organisation representing Dutch Moroccans, told Dutch news agency ANP. “We are afraid that he will portray us as second-class citizens.”