Dutch populist Wilders warns of backlash if he is frozen out

AP News
Posted: Feb 12, 2017 5:46 AM
Dutch populist Wilders warns of backlash if he is frozen out

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch populist Geert Wilders says mainstream politicians in the Netherlands will have to work with his Party for Freedom if voters strongly back his anti-immigration, anti-European Union platform in the country's upcoming election, or face a peaceful backlash.

Wilders' Party for Freedom is polling strongly ahead of the March 15 election for the lower house of Parliament. Mainstream parties, however, have ruled out working in a coalition government with him. That means it would be extremely difficult for Wilders to form a government, since the Dutch electoral system all but guarantees coalitions.

"If voters make the PVV really big — I'm not talking about two or three extra seats, but really big ... they will have to" work with his party, Wilders said in the nationally broadcast interview aired Sunday.

Wilders' party currently has 12 of the 150 seats in the lower house, but polls are forecasting him to substantially build on that in the election. Wilders himself says up to 2.5 million people could vote for him in this nation of 17 million and that other political parties would ignore his far-right voters at their peril.

"You can detest Geert Wilders or the PVV, but you can't just set aside 2-2.5 million people," he told the WNL broadcaster.

Wilders has in the past warned of a revolt if his party is sidelined despite strong electoral gains.

"People won't just accept if they are just set aside in their millions. And, of course, I don't mean that tanks will go through the streets," he said.

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He added: "Revolt is always democratic and non-violent, but it won't just pass by, I tell you that. We in the Netherlands have the right to demonstrate and the right to speak up if we don't agree with something."

In the wide-ranging interview, Wilders stressed his election manifesto, saying he wants to close Dutch borders to immigrants from Muslim nations, shutter mosques and outlaw Islam's holy book, the Quran. He also played down fears that his plan to pull the Netherlands out of the European Union would have a devastating effect on the Dutch economy, saying Britain's economy is forecast to grow strongly despite that country's vote to leave the 28-nation EU.