This is just in: Wilders said that his proposed ban on Islamic headscarves in public buildings is in fact negotiable. He’s clearly feeling the heat and is doing one major step back.
Just before the local elections in early March Wilders, who competed only in Almere and Den Haag, made it known that he favours a ban on Islamic headscarves in public buildings. This is wholly in line with his resistance to the supposed “Islamisation” of Dutch society. During the early coalition negotiations in both cities, the local PVV made much of this, and it was a so-called “break point:” the PVV does not want to enter a coalition without the other parties agreeing to the ban, as well as several other extreme-right talking points.
Meanwhile the PVV is out of the Den Haag negotiations (I still owe you an update on that, but basically a PvdA+CDA+VVD+D66 coalition is in the making). In Almere it’s also out for the moment, but negotiations haven’t been finished yet. Apparently Wilders wants to get back into those negotiations.
Wilders stated that the recent PVV actions have created an image of a party that doesn’t want to take governmental responsibility and prefers to stay in the opposition. The headscarf ban would only be a weapon in that strategy.
Now, Wilders says, it’s time to prove that this is not in fact the case: the PVV does want to take responsibility, both nationally and in Almere. There’s only one real “break point” for the party: increasing the pension age. Everything else is negotiable.
Well, everything... In exchange for the PVV backing down on this symbolic point, Wilders expects
concessions from the other parties about clamping down on “Moroccan” criminality.
In short, Wilders is in trouble. He’s slowly starting to slide down in the national polls, and part of the reason is certainly that the PVV has basically refused to cooperate in the Den Haag and Almere negotiations; and refusing to cooperate is the second most serious sin in Dutch politics, directly after being too hasty.
The PVV can easily win nine to twelve seats on a radical right-wing platform that includes whining at other parties about being excluded. However, it won’t grow much beyond twelve seats; in order to do so it has to reach normal right-wing voters who might agree with the PVV platform but also want to vote for a party that will negotiate normally and enter the coalition if at all possible.
So now Wilders is forced to dilute his position on his pet topics. It might make him slightly more acceptable to normal right-wing voters, but it could possibly cost him extreme-right voters, who might get disappointed and not go to the polls at all, or who might start to get interested in Rita Verdonk’s ToN party.
In any case, Wilders’s trouble have started, and he admits as much. They won’t end here; the PVV will continue to slide down in the polls once the elections loom near. Despite this last-ditch attempt to prove himself a serious and trustworthy coalition partner, the question remains whether reasonable voters will believe him, or whether they’ll go for the VVD anyway. I’m expecting the latter.
Meanwhile, in Den Haag the PvdA and D66 accuse Wilders of turning and of inconsistency. A D66
negotiator explained that a little while back the headscarf ban was a “break point”
for the PVV. Even now that Wilders has turned here, the PvdA adds, other points such as a ban
on Islamic schools and the building of new mosques remain totally unacceptable.
The left is smelling blood. Wilders is in big, big trouble.
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This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.