1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Wilders tries again

Christoph HasselbachApril 13, 2015

Germany’s anti-Islam movement PEGIDA has invited Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders as speaker. But who exactly is the firebrand with the trademark platinum blond hair?

Niederlande - Politiker Geert Wilders
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Warand

His best days seem to be over, both in his native Netherlands as well as on the European stage. Support for him has gone down substantially in recent elections, following an almost unprecedented political success story.

Geert Wilders, son of a Dutch father and an Indonesian-born mother, entered the Dutch parliament in 1998 as a member of the center-right VVD party. He left the VVD 14 years later, though, because he didn't agree with that party's position on Turkey - the VVD was in favor of Turkey joining the EU.

In 2006 Wilders founded his own political group, the Party for Freedom, or PVV, on an anti-EU, anti-euro and anti-Islam platform. It became an immediate success. The anti-Islam element in particular proved popular with voters. In a poll in 2008, 56 percent of Dutch people said Islam was a threat to society while 57 percent said the biggest mistake in their country's history was to let in that many Muslims. Wilders once explained his political success by declaring "I just say out loud what millions of people are thinking."

Turning tide

Wilders reached the apex of his political career after the Dutch parliamentary elections in 2010 when his PVV became the third largest party and Prime Minister Mark Rutte's coalition government - though not including the PVV - depended on their parliamentary support.

While Wilders' short film "Fitna," published in 2008 - which displays images of the 9/11 terrorist attacks beside verses of the Koran - caused a world-wide outcry in the Muslim world, it couldn't really harm him, neither politically nor judicially. Attempts to prosecute Wilders under Dutch anti-hate speech law have failed so far.

However, he seemed to have gone too far during a party meeting in The Hague in 2014 when he asked his faithful: "Do you want, in this city and in the Netherlands, more or fewer Moroccans?" When the crowd chanted "fewer, fewer" Wilders retorted, smiling: "Then we'll fix it."

The public uproar following the event seemed to have surprised even Wilders himself, and this time, several of his party activists resigned. This may have been what turned the tide.

Police protection around the clock

Since then, the PVV has lost support. In the European elections in 2014, they fared dismally. Wilders' plan to form a new political group in the European parliament together with, among others, France's extreme right-wing Front National, have also failed.

In the Netherlands, moderate parties and most of the media have begun to ignore Wilders, and he has become increasingly isolated. But he's largely stuck to his guns. For him, Islam is "the biggest problem in the Netherlands," and the Koran is "fascist," he has even likened it to Hitler's "Mein Kampf."

"I don't hate Muslims," he's said, "but I hate Islam." Because of his extreme views, his isolation is not only political but also personal and physical: Since 2004 he's been under 24-hour police protection, and his place of residence is constantly changing and a strict secret. Geert Wilders's speech in Dresden, is therefore, not only a political hot potato, but also a security nightmare for German police.