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Dutch far-right gains in local elections

“Today, Almere and The Hague, tomorrow the Netherlands!”

Anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders was jubilant after Wednesday’s local municipal elections, predicting that his Party For Freedom (PVV) can repeat it’s success at the local level to become the biggest party in the Netherlands when the country elects a new government in June.

Although the PVV only ran in two cities, there was no doubt it was the big winner in the Dutch local vote, emerging as the strongest party in Almere, a commuter town near Amsterdam, and coming second in The Hague, the center of Dutch government.

In contrast, mainstream parties seemed in disarray a month after a dispute about whether to keep Dutch troops in Afghanistan led to a collapse in the coalition government.

Provisional results showed the Labor Party, which quit the government and wants to bring the troops home, remained the biggest party nationwide with 16 percent, a 5 percent drop. The Christian Democrats of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy were neck-and-neck with 15 percent. The liberal D66 party was up to 8 percent and the Greens scored 7 percent.

In Almere, Wilder’s PVV scored 21 percent. Opinion polls suggest they could be the biggest party after the June 9 parliamentary election.

However the complex nature of Dutch politics means the centrist parties will probably be able to band together to prevent the premiership falling into the hands of the platinum blond firebrand who likens Islam to Nazism, wants to crack down on immigration, slash taxes and roll back the powers of the European Union.

Wilders will likely be in a strong position when the horse trading begins to cobble together a governing collation and there seems little doubt the success of the PVV’s ideas with the electorate will impact on the policies of whichever mainstream parties make up the next government.