Many of those who vote for Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party would be horrified if it’s extreme anti-Islam policies were actually put into effect. They support him because he’s a wake-up call to other Dutch politicians, according to political researcher Chris Aalberts of Rotterdam’s Erasmus University.
Ban the Qur’an, slap a tax on headscarves: Geert Wilders has managed to stir up plenty of controversy in the Netherlands in the past few years with his radical ideas about Islam. But most of his supporters don’t actually take his more extreme proposals seriously, according to Aalberts. “There’s only a tiny group of fanatics who want these ideas put into effect. Most Freedom Party (PVV) supporters don’t actually agree with them, but see them as a clever tactic to get certain issues on the political agenda.
Smart and frustrated
In the run-up to next month’s parliamentary elections, the Freedom Party is doing less well in the polls than a couple of years ago, but it’s still attracting a sizeable chunk of the vote. Reason enough for lecturer and researcher Chris Aalberts to try and find out what motivates Wilders’ supporters. He conducted in-depth interviews with 87 PVV voters for his book Achter de PVV (Behind the PVV) and came to the conclusion that they’re a lot smarter than the party’s critics would like to believe.
These are frustrated voters, says Aalberts, because they feel the traditional parties are not dealing with the issues they’re concerned about, such as immigration. Wilders is the only one talking about this. And his radicalism is a way of forcing the other parties to talk about it. “The aim is not that Wilders becomes Prime Minster and puts all his policies into effect. The aim is to get the parties to the right of the political spectrum to all move in the PVV’s direction: more critical of Islam, of integration and now of Europe”. And that aim is being achieved, he says: “it’s very clear that the climate of public and political opinion has shifted”.