According to the polls, Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party look set to win the most seats in the upcoming Dutch Parliamentary Elections. Often compared to US President Donald Trump due his unique bleached-blonde hairstyle and uncompromising ‘Netherlands First’ styled rhetoric, the populist leader certainly has much in common with Trump. However, the Dutch politician, known for his anti-Islamic and anti-EU views, also has many differences with the American president. He is the very definition of a political insider. As elections are now just three weeks away, many are asking, just who is Geert Wilders, and how does he plan to transform the Netherlands? The youngest of four, Wilders grew up in a conservative, Roman Catholic family, although Wilders himself is not religious. Growing up in the town of Venlo, near the German border, Wilder still has a Limburgish accent, and his proud of the roots, despite the area being one of the poor areas of the Netherlands. His father was from the Limburg area originally, but his mother fled what is now Indonesia, ow the world’s most populous Muslim country, ass a child while the Dutch colonial assets in the region fell into disarray. While active in politics from an early age, Wilders joined the public service in his early 20s. Motivated by what saw as complete dysfunction and waste, Wilders disdain for the Dutch bureaucracy can be traced back to this stage in his life. Wilders soon joined the VVD, or People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, and began to write for the then leader Frits Bolkestein, a fierce immigration critic. Bolkestein was in many ways a mentor for Wilders, and his anti-immigration tone fostered Wilders pre-existing distrust of immigrants, particularly from Muslim nations. Wilders became a local councillor for the party 1997 in Utrecht, and lived in the city’s poorest – and majority Muslim- neighbourhood of Canal Islands. A year later, was elected into parliament. By this stage, Wilders had dyed his brown hair, taken media training classes, and was preparing to become the Sharpe-tongued MP he is today. Wilders is now the fourth longest serving current MP in the Dutch lower house, making him the very definition of a political insider, and a clear break for the outsider Donald Trump, who he is often compared to. In his early days as a MP for the VVD, Wilders gained a reputation for two things. Firstly, he was known as a party rebel, often willing to speak out against what he perceived to be poor policies. Secondly, he became known as an expert in Islamic terrorism, although before 9-11 this topic was of little interest to many of his peers. Wilders fascination and contempt with Islam has evolved over the decades, but was certainly fostered by a yearlong trip to Israel as a teenager, which helps to explain his current pro-Israel stance. 9/11 reshaped western politics, and the Netherlands was not exempt from this. Suddenly Wilders’ views were a hot commodity. However, still a member of a mainstream party, Wilders was hamstrung by its policy agenda, and felt frustrated that the party was not willing to adopt his anti-Islam policies. In 2004, Wilders broke from the VVD. Shortly thereafter, an assassination rocked the Dutch political landscape. Conservative Pim Fortuyn, a conservative Wilders admired due to his anti-immigration and anti-Islam platform, had already been assassinated by an environmentalist in 2002. But in 2004, a filmmaker, Theo van Gogh was assassinated by a Dutch-Moroccan who was enraged by the artist’s portrayal of Islam. It was discovered the assassin has intentions to kill Wilders too, and Wilders has endured assassination attempts ever since. Thus, for more than a decade, Wilders has lived under police protection. This helps to explain his shifting views on Islam. In 2005, Wilders stated he believed not all Muslims were dangerous, and upheld the principle of freedom of religion. After living under 24-hour security for more than a decade, Wilders now believes the Quran should be outlawed, all mosques shut down, and immigration stopped. Of course, such policies, outlined in his one-page policy manifesto for the 2017 election, would violate EU law. Wilders wants the Netherlands to withdraw from the EU, and while his economic policy is light, certainly has a theme of protectionism. But in order to implement his policies, Wilders and his PVV need to form Government, which will be a challenge for them to do. Wilder’s has created a political party in an unusual way. Prevented from traditional campaigning due to security risks, Wilder’s and a small team of supporters have used the internet and social media to spread his message to the masses. Unlike other political parties, no sizeable party bureaucracy exists, no significant grass roots organisation is utilized to spread the word. The party only has one official member — Wilders himself. Many opponents have suggested this is why the party performed worse than anticipated in 2012, and why Wilder’s will find it hard to find a collation partner, which he is bound to need to form government. Another reason Wilders will find it difficult to form Government is that every major party has indicated it will refuse to work with him. His party briefly supported a minority government in 2010 led by the VVD, his former party, and the Christian Democrats. Eventually Wilders withdrew his support and the government collapsed, and thus many party’s view Wilders and the PVV not only as too extreme, but as unreliable coalition partners. However, if Wilders can win enough seats in the lower house, his participation in a government could be unavoidable. Ultimately, time will tell. 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