Mar 07,2017 – JORDAN TIMES – Osama Al Sharif
If polls are to be trusted — especially after missing their target in the US presidential elections and the Brexit vote last year — the party of the most controversial politician in the Netherlands is projected to win most seats in the March 15 parliamentary elections.
Geert Wilders, the 53-year-old founder and leader of the populist Party for Freedom (PVV), is running on a platform that promises to “de-Islamise” the Netherlands, close mosques and ban the Koran, limit immigration and take his country out of the EU.
The PVV has come to represent the growing ultra-nationalist, anti-multiculturalism and anti-immigration movement that is gripping most European countries today.
While Wilders’ party will not be able to govern alone, it can be expected to also fail to find partners to form a ruling coalition.
But its mark on Dutch and European politics will be felt for a long time to come.
His contentious stands on Islam and Muslims, immigration and globalisation are a manifestation of the rise of illiberal democracy in Europe and America.
His movement shares common goals with Britain’s UK Independence Party (UKIP), which championed the Brexit path, France’s National Front, whose leader Marine Le Pen is projected to win the first round of the country’s presidential elections in April, and Italy’s Northern League.
A string of far-right ultra-nationalist parties is making its mark in Germany, Austria and even Scandinavian countries.
At the heart of this populist wave is the drive to preserve the identity of majority white, Christian and monocultural European societies.
It represents a backlash against globalisation, multiculturalism and immigration especially from Muslim countries.
What is particularly dangerous about this phenomenon is that its advocates are willing to sacrifice post-World War II European values of inclusion and liberal democracy in order to safeguard the nation’s cultural identity from a perceived Muslim threat.
The trend can be found in East European countries as well, such as Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary.
The EU has become the main target of these populist movements, blamed, sometimes falsely, for allowing the inflow of mainly Muslim immigrants and adopting economic policies that threaten the middle class, the welfare system and local industries.
Like Wilders, Le Pen promised to take France out of the EU, a move that while unlikely in the near future could spell the end of this troubled union.
The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.