Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Focus

Dutch extremists in disarray after anti-Moroccan chant

  • Wilders has refused to apologise for his comments (Photo: Roel Wijnants)

Will extreme right parties in Europe finally succeed in forming a group in the European Parliament?

Chances were looking good until last Wednesday (19 March) when Dutch politician Geert Wilders led an anti-Moroccan chant.

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“Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city?” Wilders, leader of the anti-immigrant PVV party, asked supporters after local elections had finished.

“Fewer! Fewer!," the crowd chanted. “We’ll take care of that,” Wilders replied.

Like other countries in Europe, the Netherlands in recent years has become used to extreme right populism.

But it seems Wilders has gone too far this time. He came under fire, even within his own party. Several members in the parliament and national council have quit the party in protest.

Laurence Stassen, who heads the PVV in the European Parliament, became the latest to do so on Friday (21 March). She will continue as an independent MEP.

Wilders’ comments have had repercussions beyond the Netherlands too. At the weekend he was supposed to attend a party congress of the Vlaams Belang, an extreme right party in Belgium.

But following the controversy and the uprising within his own party, Wilders cancelled his appearance.

Vlaams Belang used to be popular but is now falling in the polls. The party had pinned its hopes on Wilders to reverse the trend ahead of the May EU elections.

Wilders, for his part, has not backed down from his comments. "I have said nothing wrong, I have no regrets, and will apologise for nothing and to nobody,” he said, according to Reuters.

Before last Wednesday’s events the PVV had been leading in opinion polls. Now the party appears to be in crisis.

The big question is what effect all this could have on the EU vote. The PVV could lose popularity because of the controversy. Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, according to polls, is almost certain to have fewer MEPs in the next EU parliament.

This means two important elements of what was supposed to be the extreme-right group – which needs 25 MEPs from seven member states – in the EU parliament are politically injured.

A lot is set to depend on how the far-right National Front performs in local elections in France. The preliminary results of the first round, held Sunday (23 March) show Marine Le Pen’s party made big gains.

How strong the party emerges after the second round of elections – in a week’s time – and how radical Marine Le Pen wants to be – these are two key questions for any future right-wing alliance in the European Parliament.

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