Dutch anti-immigration party gains ground in vote
By ARTHUR MAX, The Associated Press, Thursday, March 4, 2010
AMSTERDAM -- The voting was supposed to be about parking fees and dog taxes. But a populist anti-Islam party made a powerful impact in local elections Thursday while traditional governing parties suffered setbacks in what could be a harbinger of national election results three months away.
Nearly complete returns posted by the NOS state broadcaster showed Geert Wilders' Freedom Party winning in the town of Almere and coming in second in The Hague, the only two races it ran out of 394 cities and towns that elected local councils.
If the outcome is any indication of the parliamentary vote in June, Wilders could emerge as a king-maker on the national stage.
The Freedom Party, which Wilders founded four years ago, had not previously put up candidates in municipal elections.
"Today Almere and The Hague, tomorrow the whole of the Netherlands. This is our springboard for success in parliamentary elections," Wilders said as the returns came in.
"We're going to take the Netherlands back from the leftist elite that coddles criminals and supports Islamization," said Wilders, who campaigned in Almere for banning Muslim women from wearing headscarves in public.
Official results will be published Friday.
The results appeared to show widespread dissatisfaction with the two leading parties, the Christian Democrats and Labor, which shared power in an uneasy coalition that collapsed last month over whether to continue the deployment of Dutch forces in Afghanistan.
Centrist voters sought alternatives, boosting middle-of-the-road parties that have been available coalition partners to both right and left governments in the past.
Political analysts said the results indicated a deadlocked electorate. Unless voters swing in the next few months, no combination of parties is likely to be able to form a working majority in the next parliament.
That result would leave Wilders in potent position to push his platform, possibly in exchange for a promise to support a minority Cabinet without actually joining it.
Wilders, 46, faces criminal charges for inciting hatred. He has denounced Islam as antidemocratic and compared the Quran with Hitler's manifesto "Mein Kampf." He has proposed imposing a tax on clothing commonly worn by Muslims, such as headscarves, because they "pollute" the nation.
On Friday, Wilders is due to travel to London to show British members of parliament his short 2008 film Fitna, which outraged Muslims around the world. In it he superimposes sayings from the Quran against a backdrop of footage of terrorist attacks.
Britain banned him from entering the country last year, but the ban was overturned on appeal.
Dutch anti-immigration party gains ground in vote - washingtonpost.com