The elections in the Netherlands next Wednesday, March 15, are being followed with much anticipation throughout Europe as the victory of the right-winged party, Partij van de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom), of Geert Wilders is still unsure. The eccentric and extreme right-winged political actor Wilders has succeeded in dominating the whole political debate with one popular topic: immigration. With catchy soundbites and snappy tweets, he captivates the public’s attention, and in doing so, he influences the focus of his political adversaries to this subject. As strategical mastermind he tries to keep it this way, it’s his stronghold and a very sensitive matter to most people of the Netherlands (and Europe).
It is not surprising that Europe is following the elections with a certain fear. As Wilders threatens to leave the EU when he should win, the so called ‘Nexit’, Europe could lose its sixth largest economy in a not so distant future. Wilders’ plan is as simple as it gets and very much in line with a Trumpian view: close the borders and place the interests of the Netherlands first with no regard to neighboring countries or global relations. If you’re wondering which views he holds to other issues, you don’t have to search very far. His political program literally fits on one piece of paper which contains 11 policy proposals.
One disadvantage of Wilders is that he is in constant need of high-level security measures. He cannot leave his residence without a minimum of five permanent bodyguards and additional police escorts. That is extremely rare in Europe. Most politicians don’t need any protection to campaign.
Due to these extravagant security measures and his talent for catchy soundbites, he uses Twitter as his main campaign tool. He even cancelled numerous debates on television, partly because he also hates traditional media outlets, but mainly because twitter provides unfiltered contact with his electorate whom of course retweets his messages with much pleasure and passion. Despite slightly declining ratings in most recent polls, he holds on to his campaign strategy.
Wether Wilders wins the election or not, Europe holds its breath in aspiration of what may come. With other national elections coming up in France (April and May) and Germany (September), the political outcome in the Netherlands could be a new push to a much more right-winged Europe or a protection wall against it.
Marnix Van Roosbroeck is a Belgian political blogger currently working for the Young Vibes. He got his political degree from the University of Antwerp.
The opinions expressed here by Shout! columnists are their own, not those of Shout!.