| THE HAGUE
THE HAGUE Jan 23 Dutch anti-Islam politician
Geert Wilders is counting on concern over Paris militant attacks
to help him "paralyse" the centre-right coalition government and
stake a claim to greater national influence.
Accused by critics of inflaming tensions in a land that has
long welcomed workers from Morocco and Turkey, Wilders goes into
local elections on March 18 with his Freedom Party commanding
about 25 percent support -- far more than any other and enough,
possibly, to give him a blocking vote in the Upper House.
Wilders, who has lived under 24-hour security since the
murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh a decade ago by an
Islamist militant, says he will make forays onto the street to
campaign. But he will appear in public only briefly surrounded
His message to Dutch electors, couched with warnings of
"islamisation" of Europe, was direct.
"Vote, vote today. You can perhaps send the government
home," Wilders said, in an interview with Reuters. "If not, you
can paralyse the government. So those are very important
However, while Wilders may be able to block legislation in
the Upper House, he would be hard pressed to find coalition
partners to form any national government. At best he might
increase his power to press anti-immigrant policies.
Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte's cabinet nearly collapsed
in December after losing a vote in the Upper House, where he
lacks a majority.
"Most people expect that he (Wilders) will gain some seats,
and perhaps even a considerable number of seats," Henk te Velde,
a political historian at Leiden University.
But Te velde said Wilders had gained a reputation as an
untrustworthy partner by pulling out of government coalition
talks in 2012 after months of negotiations, triggering snap
That experience, and his radical views, left him isolated
from mainstream parties and made it unlikely he could lead a
government after national-level elections any time soon.
Wilders sees himself vindicated in his anti-Muslim and
anti-immigrant ideas by Islamist militant attacks two weeks ago
in Paris that killed 17 people.
He accused Rutte of failing to jail militant jihadists and
said the army should be deployed to protect potential Dutch
"If somebody makes an attack, you are not a perpetrator, Mr.
prime minister, but you have blood on your hands, if somebody
commits a terrorist act in the Netherlands."
Wilders wants to block all Muslim immigration and take away
the passports of criminal offenders of foreign descent. He is
being prosecuted for alleged discrimination against Moroccans
for comments made during campaigning last March which prompted
6,400 complaints to police.
He asked supporters if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans,
triggering the chant: "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!"
"It is damaging and painful," said Farid Azarkan, chairman
of the Cooperative for Dutch Moroccans, a leading dialogue
partner for the Dutch government. "The division in society has
increased and Moroccans feel like second-class citizens."
Wilders, on the same al Qaeda blacklist as the slain editor
of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, said he would travel
to all 12 provinces to meet voters.
"There will be a lot of security, but I will do it anyway,
even if it's just to let the other people, the terrorists, see
that they will not be able to stop the democratic process."
An opinion poll taken after the Paris attacks showed the
Freedom Party winning 31 seats in the country's 150-seat
parliament, more than doubling its showing in the 2012 elections
and becoming by far the largest party. The governing
Liberal-Labour coalition would win just 28 seats.
"Wherever Islam gets its foot on the ground, you see less
freedom, less freedom of speech, less freedom of anything," he
said. "Of course not all Muslims are terrorists, but most
terrorists are Muslims."
(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; editing by Ralph Boulton)