Far right Dutch politician ups anti-Muslim rhetoric
It has come to this: a racist, anti-Muslim Dutch lawmaker handing out self-defence sprays to women so they can repel what he describes as "Islamic testosterone bombs", a reference to the sexual attacks reported earlier in the month in Cologne and other German cities.
Geert Wilders, for it was him, surrounded by bodyguards and police, visited a market Saturday in the largely blue-collar town of Spijkenisse to hand out the sprays, which contained red paint.
Amid stalls selling vegetables, fish, flowers and bicycle parts, Wilders got a rock-star welcome from dozens of supporters, while others protested his visit, waving placards including one that read, "Refugees are welcome, racism is not."
The publicity stunt fits into Wilders' anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric that has propelled him to the top of Dutch opinion polls, just over a year away from the parliamentary election.
In between shaking hands and posing for selfies with supporters, the Freedom Party leader said that, if elected, he would, "close the borders immediately and have no more asylum-seekers. We just cannot afford to have more. The Dutch people in a big majority don't want it and we cannot afford it and it makes our people and women only more unsafe."
His fear-filled message is gaining traction in a country famed for its open and liberal values.
It echoes Republican front-runner Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and is similar to other right wing and xenophobic groups in Europe like Marine Le Pen's National Front in France.
As Wilders' popularity soars on the back of such disenchantment, Prime Minister Mark Rutte's two-party coalition is in a slump, losing ground mainly to Wilders.
|Even if Wilders' party wins the next election, he would struggle to become prime minister without the support of other parties.|
Whether Wilders is able to transform his current popularity into parliamentary seats next year and a tilt at power in the splintered Dutch parliament remains to be seen.
But even if Wilders' party wins the next election, he would struggle to become prime minister without the support of other parties in this country where the electoral system all but guarantees coalition governments.
Rutte has ruled out cooperating with Wilders unless the Freedom Party leader takes back comments made in 2014 that he would see to it that there were fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.
Those same comments also landed Wilders in trouble with Dutch prosecutors, who plan to put him on trial on charges of discrimination.
Wilders' party currently holds 12 seats in the 150-member lower house, but a poll by Ipsos on Thursday suggested the Freedom Party would win 32 seats now.