Much of the attention on Chicago’s local elections February 22 is focused on the race for mayor. Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun lead a list of candidates seeking the office currently held by Mayor Richard Daley. But in those same elections, an increased number of Muslim American candidates also are seeking positions on Chicago’s city council.
Ahmed Khan is running for alderman (city council member) in Chicago’s 50th Ward. Khan is one of several Muslim American candidates running for office in Chicago. He says he is not deterred by the fact no Muslim American has previously won election to the city council.
There is considerable fear among Dutch Muslims in the city of Almere regarding the potential success of the anti-Islamic Freedom Party (PVV) in upcoming national elections. The PVV, led by Geert Wilders, currently has nine of 150 seats in parliament. It is predicted to win 17 seats next week and become the country’s fourth biggest party in the process. The party topped the March 3 municipal poll in Almere, east of Amsterdam, with 21.6 per cent, and came in second in The Hague.
Muslims in Almere express anxiety about possibility of the party gaining influence after the success of the party in the local elections. “Muslim people in Almere are looking differently at their indigenous Dutch compatriots” since the PVV election success, Shangram Karim, the Dutch Muslim Party leader in the city, told AFP.
”People are thinking: ‘It is probable that my neighbour, or someone in my street, voted for the PVV and thus against me.”
Despite the party’s initial successes, however, it remains politically isolated.
Coalition governments unwilling to compromise on some of Wilders’ more controversial proposals (such as a ban on headscarves) have ignored it.
Following local elections on March 3, 2010, Radio Netherlands Online profiles the increasing success of candidates of an immigrant background in earning personal votes. While the phenomenon is not unusual, particularly in local elections, it appears to have happened on a larger scale during the recent elections, as in “every major city, and many medium-sized cities in the provinces, candidates of immigrant background have jumped ahead of their colleagues”.
During an election voters may cast a ballot for their preferred party, or opt instead to vote directly for a candidate within a party. Thus within the proportional representational system, given a high enough popularity among preference voters, a candidate can potentially be elected regardless of their standing on a party’s candidate list.
Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (PVV), has featured prominently in Dutch news coverage this week.
With the success of the Freedom (PVV) Party in the Hague during last week’s local elections, Wilders announced that he will take a seat on the city council. Earlier Wilders had stated that if the party won local elections he would not take up a seat on the council.
During a trip to London on March 7, Wilders screened his controversial film Fitna. He also announced that a follow up movie, Fitna II, will not be released before the parliamentary elections in June 2010. Following the screening, Wilders delivered a provocative speech in which he called upon Britain to stop accepting immigrants from Muslim nations. The conference was countered with protests.
Responding to his provocative comments, Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen has accused Wilders of damaging the Netherlands’ reputation abroad by spreading hatred and fear, Dutch News reports. Verhagen referred to Wilders’ press conference, saying “being free to give offence does not mean that it is wise to give offence… Everyone has the responsibility to show respect for the rights and reputations of others…”.
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.
Dutch right wing, anti-immigration PVV (Freedom) Party stands to gain in local elections scheduled for March 3, 2010. A recent poll from TNS/NIPO projects that the party will win the city of Almere in the local elections, one of only two cities where the party will run. This as a result of the votes of middle aged white men, many of whom did not vote in previous elections.
Attention to the elections has been heightened by the fall of the Dutch national government and subsequent elections scheduled for June 9 2010. As negotiations to form a coalition government are underway, many parties have already ruled out potential cooperation with Wilders. Only the Christian Democrat Party and the right wing Liberals (VVD ) have not yet done so.
Several candidates running in the Netherlands’ March 3 local elections have published campaign material in languages other than Dutch, sparking criticism from other campaigners. Turkish and Arabic-language election posters have appeared at various places in the country, as Labour (PvdA), the Christian democrats (CDA), centre-left D66, the Socialist Party (SP) and the leftwing Greens have posters up on which Islamic candidates are seeking their ethnic group’s voting support. The materials were printed by candidates without the permission of their party executive, and other parties have been reluctant to criticize the poster because they also have candidates publishing non-Dutch material.
Nonetheless, Integration minister Eberhard van der Laan has called on all parties to stop producing election campaign posters in other languages because they ‘do not fit in with the message’ that immigrants should learn Dutch. But the city’s Labour party has refused to withdraw leaflets in other languages, Dutch News reports. ‘The reality is that not everyone in Amsterdam speaks good Dutch. But these people should be able to vote as well,’ campaign leader Lodewijk Asscher said.
Following a number of anti-Islamic comments in online forums, a politician for the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) in the Bludenz district of west-Austrian state of Vorarlberg has been removed from the local electoral list. Karl Mayrhofer had written that Islam was a “degenerate and depraved ideology,” which cost him both his party membership as well as his candidacy in the upcoming local elections.
Joachim Weixlbaumer, leader of the FPÖ municipal faction, stressed that he had made clear from the very beginning that the above mentioned comments were unacceptable, and they had received no support from the rest of the local faction either. Though the removal of Mayrhofer from the list was the logical conclusion, Weixlbaumer pointed out that this incident changes nothing with regard to the massive problems in Bludenz that exist concerning the parallel society of the local Turkish-origin population.
Henny Kreeft, leader of the Dutch Muslim Party (NMP), announced Monday that the party will contest upcoming local council elections in Venlo, hometown of politician Geert Wilders. The vote, to be held November 18, 2009, is the result of redrawing council boundaries.
Four candidates – two with a Moroccan, one with a Turkish and one with a Pakistani background – will be on the NMP election list. The party hopes to win two seats, one from Labour and one from the green left GroenLinks party.
Kreeft told Telegraaf that running in Wilders’ hometown is a coincidence, stating ‘Venlo is very important for us’. The party plans to participate in nine local council elections next year.
Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders confirmed Thursday that ex-Muslim Ehasan Jami, 24, has joined the party, which is highly critical of Islam. DPA reports that the self-identified ex-Muslim and critic of Islam may run for a council seat in The Hague in the upcoming 2010 local elections, or may enter politics following the general elections of 2011.
Jami was previously a member of the left-wing Labour party, but was expelled in 2007 after writing an op-ed essay together with Wilders in which they compared Mohammed with Adolf Hitler.