Extreme right on the march in Europe's most tolerant nation

Geert Wilders triumphs in Netherlands local elections

The anti-Islamist party led by Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders has triumphed in municipal polls in The Netherlands, opening the way for a political breakthrough for the far-right in general elections in June.

Mr Wilders, known for his blond mane and due in London today to show his anti-Islam film in the House of Lords at the invitation of a Ukip peer, has campaigned for an immediate freeze on immigration and a ban on the wearing of Muslim headscarves in public. His Freedom Party was declared the surprise winner yesterday in Almere, a city just east of Amsterdam with a large immigrant population. It came second in The Hague, the only two cities where it chose to participate in the polls.

Wednesday's vote, in which the two main parties in the ruling coalition, the Labour Party (PvdA) and the Christian Democrats (CDA), suffered heavy losses, was the first electoral test since Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's government collapsed last month.

Tensions between the two sides and the recession played into Wilders' hands, while he refused to depart from his uncompromising stance on Muslim immigration or engage in mainstream political debates. If the local results were to translate nationally on 9 June, 46-year-old Wilders, who faces criminal charges for inciting hatred, could emerge as a kingmaker. An opinion poll yesterday also showed that the Freedom Party could take most seats in the national parliament in June.

Many Muslim residents in Almere were deeply shaken by the outcome, which gave the Freedom Party 21.6 per cent of votes. "I will stand here until my toes freeze," said Ayse Bayrak-de Jager, a Muslim student taking part in a silent protest outside the town hall. Her friend, Zaitoon Shah, added: "It's just appalling to think that I might not to be able to go to the library soon."

Kadriye Kacar, a 35-year-old IT student of Turkish origin, said: "I don't normally wear a headscarf but I decided to today as a sign of protest. Others are doing the same, until Wilders leaves. It's terrible. People are looking at us differently today, as if to say 'we won and you're going to leave'."

Celebrating in a rowdy local café late on Wednesday, a beaming Wilders told the city's Muslims not to be afraid "as long as they don't break the law", but he insisted that his party would refuse to go into talks with any parties that did not support his views. "We've always maintained that it would be unthinkable for us to work with them. We can talk about a number of policy issues like education and finance, but upholding the basic rights of all the people living here is non-negotiable," said Labour councillor Alphons Muurlink.

Many shoppers at the local market told Dutch television they felt ashamed for their city. "It's a big black stain, I don't even want to talk about it," said one elderly woman. The Dutch Muslim Party, which failed to gain any seats, said it was "a sad day" for the country. Leader Henny Kreeft said Wilders had traded on "baseless fears".

The collapse of the Dutch government was triggered by a deadlock over whether to keep some Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan after December, when a parliament decision to withdraw from the country comes into effect. The debacle was the last in a series of crises to have plagued the coalition, with the Christian Democrats locking horns with their Labour colleagues over retirement age and budget reform.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Businessman at desk circa 1950s
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Development Manager - North Kent - OTE £19K

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea