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Geert Wilders

Parliamentary elections held in the Netherlands on November 22 have brought the right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) closer to power. Geert Wilders, a staunch anti-immigrant and Islamophobic leader, is a far-right populist and his party - PVV - won 37 seats in the 150-member parliament to become the largest single party. They won twice the seats compared to the last election. Frans Timmermans's centre-left party - the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) - won 25 seats. The centre-right-leaning government of former Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party - People's Party for Freedom and Democracy - got only 24 seats. As in such parliamentary models, the largest party comes forward to form the government. Even though a party needs 76 seats to form a majority, PVV looks forward to forming a government since the New Social Contract (NSC) party which won 20 seats showed interest in a coalition. With the collective strengthof 57 seats, Wilders hopes to cobble together the required number to form a government with the support of small parties and independents.

Also read: Dutch Muslims in shock and fear as far-right leader wins polls: report

The Netherlands which used to be a comparatively liberal and tolerant country, is now passing power to a party that sides with narrow nationalism, anti-Islamism, and anti-immigration. In Europe, a similar trend is believed to be taking hold in many places. The PVV is another version of such a party in Dutch politics. Wilders, also a staunch supporter of Israel, has gone on record speaking disparagingly about Islam and Morrocans. Some of his promises during the election campaign were banning the Quran, shutting down mosques, banning hijab in government buildings, and closing borders to immigrants from Muslim countries. He also called for exiting from the European Union as part of his extremely nationalistic ideas. After getting elected, and for ensuring partners in power, he did soften his remarks about Islam and said he would respect the Dutch Constitution. But opposition parties are not inclined to take his words at face value and see them as opportunism.

Also read: Kuwait, Turkey condemn desecration of Quran in the Netherlands

Outgoing Prime Minister Rutte, who has been in power for a long time since 2010, ran into trouble after failing to handle farmers' protest against his government's nitrogen policy and disagreement among allies on refugee family reunions. More than two lakh refugees, double that of the previous year, have arrived in the Netherlands this year. Over 50% of them are the result of the Ukraine war. Right-wing political movements have concluded that it is easy to sway voters by talking about economic issues such as their resettlement. Many European parties have come to power in the recent past by hailing similar ideologies. These include Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Georgia Melanies' Brothers of Italy party in Italy, Sweden's Democrats, Finn's Party in Finland, and AfD in Germany which is a party with roots in neonazism. In France, Macron got only a scrape-through majority against Marin Li Pen, a strident racial campaigner. Parties are gaining the upper hand in European politics now by linking social issues to immigration and refugees. But what they conveniently forget is that all these issues are the result of their own actions. In the case of certain African countries, some groups there might be crossing the Mediterranean for a better life. However, refugees from places like Libya and Sudan are the result of conflicts created by Western political military interference in those countries.

Also read: Dutch King apologises for Netherland's slavery past on 150th Anniversary of its end

Asian countries like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Lebanon are also facing similar interference by Western powers which led to or aggravate political instability and uncertainty. The West either creates these situations or worsens an already existing issue. The governments that blow immigration from Muslim nations out of proportion are on the side of the US. Since the United States lies far away in another continent across oceans, that country is not affected by refugees as Europe is. On top of all these, a good number of these countries in the Middle East or close to the region are affected in one way or another by Western support for Israel and related frictions. Amid this, European political parties gain the support of the people by using emotional slogans. If the immigration issues and narrow national views are to end, the power equations have to change. But, no such developments are seen in the near future. Not only that, the misfortune is that those who exploit them are coming to power too.

Also read: The return of fascism in Italy

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TAGS:EditorialMark RutteGeert WildersNetherlands PMNetherlands PoliticsViktor Orbanright-wing parties
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