Anti-Islam Dutch MP Wilders upbeat despite polls' slide
March 05 2017 04:32 PM
Dutch politician Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party (PVV)
Dutch politician Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party (PVV)

AFP/The Hague

Anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders Sunday brushed off a slump in polls saying he was confident of a strong showing in upcoming elections, which he vowed would also boost Europe's far-right.

Just 10 days before the March 15 vote, the firebrand politician and his Freedom Party (PVV) appears to have slipped into second place behind the Liberal party of incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte after months of leading the opinion polls.

‘I am confident we will all have excellent results,’ Wilders told a gaggle of mainly foreign journalists, referring also to France's far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen.

‘Even if that will not be the case, the genie will not go back into the bottle... certainly things will change in Europe,’ he insisted.

In an odd press conference, Wilders gathered reporters from international organisations in a street in an Amsterdam industrial area, surrounded by a heavy security detail of uniformed and plain-clothed police officers.

Boosted by the polarising debate over immigration, and initially by the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential race, Wilders had been leading polls since late last year.

The Dutch vote is seen as a key litmus test of the rise of populist and far-right parties ahead of other national elections to be held across Europe later this year.

But the latest collated polls by the Dutch website Peilingwijzer (Poll indicator) from seven different agencies on Saturday showed Rutte's VVD party would now win 23 to 27 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, with the PVV set to garner 22-26 seats if elections were held today.

‘Many of my colleagues (opponents) today are now copying our thoughts. The whole campaign today in Holland... is about immigration, national identity, values and the EU,’ said Wilders.

‘They are copy-cats and that's why we are losing votes,’ he said.

The 53-year-old has courted controversy with his hardline anti-Islam, anti-immigrant stance and his incendiary insults against Moroccans and Turks.

He has vowed in his party's one-page manifesto that if elected he would ban the sale of Korans, close mosques and Islamic schools, shut Dutch borders and ban Muslim migrants.

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