There was never any doubt that Geert Wilders could talk the talk; this most disagreeable Dutchman, head of Holland’s far-right, anti-immigrant Freedom Party (PVV), is famous for mouthing off—mostly against Muslims. (He is famous for equating the Quran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and for claiming that “Islam is the cause of all our problems.”) The question has always been: could he walk the walk? Well, he’s walking. And there’s new concern that he could walk his way to the prime minister’s office.
During the Netherlands’ local elections last week, the PVV made major gains—carrying the city of Almere and placing second in The Hague. In no time, critics and supporters alike were painting those local victories as a sign of what is to come when the country holds national elections in June. Said Wilders, in a victory speech on Wednesday: “Today Almere and The Hague, tomorrow the Netherlands. We are going to take the Netherlands back from the leftist elite that coddles criminals and supports Islamization.”
His plan to “conquer the entire country” is ambitious—but Wilders’s pledges to “ban the Quran,” unleash “urban commandos” on city streets, and uphold “Judeo-Christian values” are selling well in a country torn apart over immigration policy. A new poll projects that, in June, the PVV will nab more seats than any other party.
Marc Chavannes, a Dutch journalist and professor, laments that his country “is certainly not showing its best face.” Elsewhere, the broader repercussions of a win for Wilders are being sized up. Some express their concerns obliquely: a column in the U.K.’s Telegraph wondered if “Geert Wilders [is] the new William of Orange,” the 17th-century Dutch prince who took the British crown—sweeping in, at the invitation of Protestants, to prevent a Catholic dynasty from ruling the land. Others feel no need to mute their disquiet: shortly after Wilders’s municipal victories were announced, Germany’s Die Tageszeitung newspaper featured a front page photo of Geert Wilders smiling broadly—with a taped-on Hitler moustache.