Who is Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam, anti-EU populist who could be next Dutch PM newsbhunt

In a significant shift in Dutch politics, Geert Wilders, known for his far-right and anti-Islam populist stance, was on track for a substantial victory in the parliamentary elections on Wednesday. This outcome, considered one of the most notable political surprises in the Netherlands since World War II, is expected to have a profound impact across Europe.
Here is all you need to know about Wilders:
Early life and background
Birth and Upbringing: Geert Wilders was born on September 6, 1963, in Venlo, a small town in the Netherlands.His father was a manager at a printing company and his mother was a housewife. He has three siblings. He was raised as a Roman Catholic, but left the church at his coming of age. He studied law and health insurance at the Open University. His upbringing in a relatively conservative environment played a significant role in shaping his perspectives.
Education and early career: Wilders’ early career was not immediately political. He initially worked in health insurance and social services, which gave him insights into the workings of public policy and social welfare systems.
Political trajectory
Early political involvement: Wilders’ political career began with the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). He served as a speechwriter and an assistant to the party, gradually rising through the ranks.
Formation of the Party for Freedom (PVV): Disenchanted with the VVD’s stance on various issues, particularly on the EU and immigration. Wilders left the party in 2004 over support for Turkey’s accession to the EU. He then founded the Party for Freedom (PVV) in 2006, which quickly gained attention for its right-wing populist and nationalist stances.
Political views and controversies
Anti-Islam stance: Wilders is most notorious for his vehement criticism of Islam. Wilders’ inflammatory views on Islam have prompted death threats and he has lived under heavy police protection for years. He has called the prophet Mohammad a “pedophile”. He has described Islam as a “fascist ideology” and a “backward religion.” Wilders has called for banning the Quran and shutting down mosques in the Netherlands, equating these measures with fighting an ideological battle against what he perceives as the Islamization of Europe.
Views on immigration: Closely tied to his views on Islam are his opinions on immigration. Wilders advocates for stringent immigration policies, particularly targeting Muslim-majority countries. He argues that such measures are necessary to preserve Dutch culture and societal values.
Electoral success and influence: Under Wilders’ leadership, the PVV has made significant electoral gains, becoming a notable force in Dutch politics. The party’s success is indicative of a broader populist wave in Europe, reflecting growing skepticism about multiculturalism and the EU.
Implications for the European Union
Euroscepticism: Wilders is a staunch critic of the European Union. He advocates for the Netherlands’ exit from the EU, commonly referred to as “Nexit.” His stance reflects a growing Eurosceptic sentiment in parts of Europe, where the EU is seen as infringing on national sovereignty.
Influence on EU Politics: Wilders’ views and the PVV’s success have implications beyond the Netherlands. They contribute to the broader debate on the future of the EU, particularly regarding issues of immigration, national identity, and sovereignty.
Polarization and political discourse: Wilders’ rise has contributed to political polarization, not just in the Netherlands but across Europe. His rhetoric has influenced the political discourse, pushing some mainstream parties to adopt tougher stances on immigration and EU policies.
However, some analysts and experts argue that Wilders’ influence and impact could be limited by the checks and balances of the Dutch political system and the realities of the international arena. They point out that Wilders will have to compromise and cooperate with other parties in order to form a viable and durable government, which could moderate his radical proposals. They also note that Wilders will face strong opposition and resistance from the Dutch public, the civil society, the judiciary, and the EU institutions, which could constrain his actions and ambitions.
(With inputs from agencies)

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