Yet in its first ever test of national electoral support among the normally tolerant Dutch, his anti-immigration Party for Freedom which he founded in 2006 won 17 per cent of the votes – making it the second biggest party. That has shaken the country to its core – opening up the real possibility that, through the Dutch coalition system, Mr Wilders could win power at the next general election.
Now, like many others in the Netherlands, the Bernards are desperately worried. “This has the feeling of what happened to Germany in the 1930s,” said Alfred Bernard, 52, a lawyer. “Wilders blames foreigners for everything. People are disoriented because of the economic crisis. Everywhere there is dissatisfaction with mainstream politicians…
“Half of Holland loves me and half of Holland hates me. There is no in-between,” Mr Wilders said. “This is a new politics, and I think it would have a great chance of success in other European countries. We are democrats. On economic and social issues we are centrist. We want tougher laws on crime and we want to stop Holland paying so much money to the European Union.
“We would stop immigration from Muslim countries and close Islamic schools. We want to be more proud of our identity.”
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