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Dutch voters are going to the polls in the first of three crucial eurozone elections in 2017.

The race is dominated by PM Mark Rutte’s center-right party and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, running on an anti-immigration platform.

Mark Rutte has said the election is an opportunity for voters to “beat the wrong sort of populism”.

Geert Wilders has pledged to take the Netherlands out of the EU, close all mosques and ban the Koran.

His party had been leading in opinion polls but they have since suggested his support may be slipping.

Voter turnout so far has been high, with turnout at midday at 33%, compared to 27% at the last election in 2012, Reuters reports.

Image source Getty Images

France goes to the polls next month to elect a new president while Germany is due to hold a general election in September.

March 15election also comes amid a diplomatic spat between the Netherlands and Turkey.

Geert Wilders declared after casting his vote: “Whatever the outcome of the elections today, the genie will not go back into the bottle and this patriotic revolution – whether today or tomorrow – will take place.”

Protracted coalition talks are the likely outcome.

After casting his vote, PM Mark Rutte asked his fellow citizens to imagine how the world would react if the Freedom Party came first.

“I think the rest of the world will then see that after Brexit, after the American elections, again the wrong sort of populism has won the day,” he said.

Earlier, in TV debates, Mark Rutte and Geert Wilders clashed over how to stem immigration.

Mark Rutte dismissed Geert Wilders’s plan to close borders and mosques and to ban the Koran as “fake solutions”.

Geert Wilders accused Mark Rutte of providing better healthcare for immigrants than for the Dutch themselves.

Lodewijk Asscher of the Labor Party, the junior party in Mark Rutte’s coalition, called Geert Wilders a man of “10,000 angry tweets and no solutions”.

Several of the smaller party leaders are being seen as potential power-brokers.

Seven of the 28 parties running could win more than 10 seats in the 150-seat parliament, the polls suggest.

Christian Democrat Sybrand Buma and liberal Alexander Pechtold might go into coalition in the event of Mark Rutte’s victory.

However, other parties could end up as king-makers too, such as the Green-Left under Jesse Klaver and the Socialist party.

None are likely to take part in a coalition with Geert Wilders.

All of the parties forecast to win 10 seats or more are led by men yet women made up more than a third of MPs in the outgoing parliament (58 out of 150).

In the past, the Green-Left was regularly led by a woman, including Femke Halsema, who held the post for more than eight years (2002-2010).

Now only some of the very small parties have female leaders: Sylvana Simons from Article One (which campaigns against discrimination) and Marianne Thieme from Party for the Animals.

Congressman Steve King has sparked a backlash on social media after tweeting his support for the Dutch anti-Islam politician, Geert Wilders.

The senior Republican tweeted on March 12: “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny.”

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” he added.

The Republican Representative of Iowa is a strong advocate of putting a stop to birthright citizenship.

All children born in the United States currently get citizenship under the constitution, including the children of families living in America illegally.

Image source Flickr

Steve King has pushed for radical reform of the interpretation of the 14th amendment of the US constitution so that it no longer gives the children of undocumented migrants the right to a US passport.

His comments led to accusations that he was “openly peddling white nationalism”.

Steve King’s post was re-tweeted by the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, with the words “sanity reigns supreme”.

David Duke later tweeted: “God bless Steve King.”

However, many were quick to denounce Steve King, including former President Bill Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who described the Republican’s comments as “painful”.

Geert Wilders, whose populist Freedom Party is expected to do well in Dutch parliamentary elections on March 15, has been under 24-hour police protection for more than a decade due to death threats.

The anti-Islam politician was found guilty of hate speech over his promise to reduce the number of Moroccans in the Netherlands in 2016, but no penalty was imposed.


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has launched a scathing attack on Western populist politicians, branding them “demagogues and political fantasists”.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein singled out Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, saying he used bigotry as a political weapon.

He said he and others, including Donald Trump and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, used the same tactics as ISIS.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein was addressing a security conference in The Hague.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

In an election manifesto published last month, Geert Wilders said that if elected he would close all mosques and ban the Koran and Muslim immigrants.

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) is leading opinion polls in the Netherlands before the 2017 election.

He also addressed the US Republican Party National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, last month.

Donald Trump’s campaign has been marked by hard-line rhetoric on immigration and social issues.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told the inauguration of the Peace, Justice and Security Foundation, that he wanted to address his statement to “Geert Wilders, his acolytes, indeed to all those like him – the populists, demagogues and political fantasists”.

He said: “I am a Muslim, who is, confusingly to racists, also white-skinned; whose mother is European and father, Arab. And I am angry, too, because of Mr. Wilders’ lies and half-truths, manipulations and peddling of fear.”

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described the PVV manifesto as “grotesque” and said Geert Wilders had much in common with presidential hopeful Donald Trump, Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban, France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen, and former UKIP party leader Nigel Farage.

He said all had similarities to the ideology espoused by ISIS.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said: “All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion. A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever.”

He added: “Make no mistake, I certainly do not equate the actions of nationalist demagogues with those of Daesh (ISIS). But in its mode of communication, its use of half-truths and oversimplification, the propaganda of Daesh uses tactics similar to those of the populists.”

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that the “humiliating racial and religious prejudice fanned by the likes of Mr. Wilders” had become official policy in some countries.

“We hear of accelerating discrimination in workplaces. Children are being shamed and shunned for their ethnic and religious origins – whatever their passports, they are told they are not “really” European, not “really” French, or British, or Hungarian. Entire communities are being smeared with suspicion of collusion with terrorists,” he said.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein warned that an atmosphere “thick with hate” could quickly descend into “colossal violence”.

“A decade ago, Geert Wilders’ manifesto and Cleveland speech would have created a worldwide furore. Now? Now, they are met with little more than a shrug, and, outside the Netherlands, his words and pernicious plans were barely noticed,” he said.

“Are we going to continue to stand by and watch this banalization of bigotry, until it reaches its logical conclusion?”

In March, Geert Wilders appeared in court charged with inciting hatred against Moroccans.

Geert Wilders’ full trial is due to start on October 31.