Anti-Islam party makes gains in Dutch local elections

News coverage of local elections in the Netherlands focuses on the gains made by right wing Freedom (PVV) Party. Led by controversial politician Geert Wilders, who is currently on trial for inciting hatred against Muslims, the party operates on an anti-immigration platform. It made major gains in the only two cities where it ran candidates, leading the elections in Almere with 21.9 percent of the vote and coming second in the Hague. The Netherlands Muslim Party, presenting candidates in 5 cities, failed to win any seats in these local elections, though it still plans to run candidates in upcoming parliamentary elections.

The gains of the PVV have attracted particular attention in light of the national elections called for June 9 2010 to form a coalition replacing the government which fell in February 2010. Wilders predicted that his party’s success in the local elections indicated its increasing popularity throughout the country, saying “the national campaign begins today in Almere and The Hague, tomorrow in all of the Netherlands… On 9 June, we’ll conquer the Netherlands”. The PVV currently holds 9 seats in the 150 seat parliament.

News agencies present differing interpretations of the PVV’s popularity: Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that, “if voters had elected a new parliament on Wednesday, the Freedom Party would have won between 24 and 27 seats. In one poll, it would be the largest single party. If his party does that well come June, Geert Wilders could become the next prime minister.” Dutch News reports that an “opinion poll earlier in the day put the PVV in third place in the national vote. And the party’s results in Almere were well below forecasts and down on its share of the vote at the European elections last June.” International news agencies including the BBC and Al-Jazeera emphasize the rise in the PVV’s gains as an “anti-Islam” party.

Pre-election polls suggested that highly-educated Moroccan and Turkish youth would vote for D66 in the local Dutch elections, followed by PvdA (Labor) and GroenLinks (Greens), Telegraaf reportedNIS reports that immigrants provide important support for the Labour (PVdA) party noting “the PvdA remained the biggest party in Amsterdam by some way, partly due to 74 percent of Moroccans voting for the social democrats.” The Hague witnessed a protest to PVV popularity when about 100 individuals voted in headscarves as a sign of their opposition to Wilders. Dutch Muslims have reacted to the results with disbelief. After the vote, Expatica prints reactions from Muslims in Almere who are concerned about the party’s popularity. “I am afraid that it will lead to more hatred,” said 20-year-old student Sakina Buyatui, a Dutch-born resident the city, where a third of the population is of immigrant origin.