He’s been called the Netherland’s answer to Donald Trump, and on March 15 we will see if he can pull off the same kind of surprise victory at the polls that his U.S. counterpart managed to achieve last November.
The ultra-conservative wannabe prime minister Geert Wilders, whose Party of Freedom is slated to fare very well in tomorrow’s elections, is a political anomaly in a country better known for its liberal lifestyles and religious tolerance than its right-wing populism and ethnocentric nationalism.
But Wilders, himself a descendant of Indonesian immigrants, has caught the anti-immigrant fever and Islamophobic fervor from his French bosom buddie Marine Le Pen, and is out to remold Dutch foreign policy in the shape of a modern-day populist template.
His contentious platform includes a ban on immigration from Muslim countries, a taxation on the use of hijab head scarves, and an out-and-out barring of the Quran, which he has publicly compared to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
Like his U.S. political doppelgänger, Wilders is a social media aficionado, campaigning on the likes of Twitter and Facebook rather than mingling face-to-face with his potential electorate.
He is so paranoid that he is alleged to sleep in a different location every night.
The 53-year-old Wilders is no great fan of the European Union and has even threatened to present a Nexit referendum to follow the example of the United Kingdom’s Brexit once in office.
A former health insurance salesman turned politician, Wilders skyrocketed to fame in 2004 when his life was threatened by a group of suspected terrorists who took a building in The Hague captive with grenades and handguns.
Several other threats and attempts on his life would earn him the dubious title of most-threatened politician in the Netherlands in 2008.
The third-longest-sitting member of the Dutch Parliament, he has a knack for verbalizing populous sentiments and fears in less-than-diplomatic rhetoric, a trait that has won him nearly as many supporters as opponents and kept his name in the forefront of the Netherland’s media outlets.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Wilders and his party will amass enough votes to claim the prime ministership, but whether he wins or lose, he has left a definite footprint on Netherlandish politics that will not soon fade.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.