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Wilders' party wins big in Dutch municipal election.

Holland's far-right Freedom Party and its controversial leader Geert Wilders claimed major gains during this month's municipal elections. If repeated in the upcoming national elections, the Islamophobic leader could potentially be in line to become prime minister.

Municipal election results announced March 4 put the Freedom Party in first place in Almere--a region near Amsterdam--and second place in The Hague, one the country's largest cities and the seat of the Dutch government. These were the only two municipalities where the Freedom Party ran candidates.

If the numbers are repeated in the June 9 national elections, Wilders's party could become the largest party in the 150-seat parliament, putting the controversial politician in line to become prime minister.

"We are going to conquer the entire country; we are going to be the biggest party in the country," Wilders said after the vote. "The leftist elite still believes in multiculturalism, coddling criminals, a European superstate and high taxes. But the rest of the Netherlands thinks differently. That silent majority now

The controversial politician is known throughout the world for his fiercely anti-Islamic rhetoric and his 2008 film "Fitna," which was described by U.N. Secretary General Ban Kimoon as "offensively anti-Islamic," for comparing the Qoran to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf."

Wilders is currently on trial in Holland on five counts of inciting hatred and discrimination against Islam and more than 100 discriminatory public statements. The trial began January 20, and is set to resume July 1. The trial is seen as both a test of the limits of free speech and the country's commitment to protecting minority rights.

Currently, the Freedom Party holds just nine of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, along with five of the country's 25 European parliament seats. Some polls now show the far-right party as the most popular party in the traditionally tolerant country.

Not everyone supports Wilders and his party. After the vote results were announced, the Dutch political mainstream expressed its outrage. The prominent Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad wrote, "The Dutch political system, based on consensus and co-operation, is coming apart at the seams."

The Muslim population in Almere--where one third of the population of 190,000 is reportedly of immigrant origin--also expressed outrage.

Computer Sciences student Kadriye Kacar, 35, who was born in Holland but is of Turkish descent, told the Telegraph of London, "It is terrible. People are looking at us in a new way today as if they are thinking, 'We won

"I don't wear a headscarf normally but I have decided to start doing so now out of protest. Other people in my community are planning to do the same. We will protest until Wilders is gone," Kacar said.

Wilders' popularity grew after he was refused entry to Britain last year; London said he was a threat to public safety. But the ban has since been lifted and he is scheduled to arrive in London this month to screen Fitna in the House of Lords, the upper house of the British parliament.

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On March 5, the day after nounced, Wilders held a press conference in which he reiterated his belief that Islam is a "fascist ideology" and a "retarded culture."

"Do I have a problem with Islam?" Wilders asked? "Yes, I do have a problem with Islam. I think it's a fascist ideology. I think we should stop the Islamization of our society--but through democracy, through policies that get a majority in our parliaments. I believe Islam is a violent and dangerous religion and even a retarded culture. But, I have nothing against Muslims. So, indeed, I want a full stop to immigration from Muslim countries to the Netherlands. I believe it should be implemented in the whole of Europe, by the way. It's not because I have something against the people, but I believe that they bring a lot of culture and ideology--fascist ideology-that we should not let grow in our society."
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Title Annotation:Faith: Religion and the world
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Mar 26, 2010
Words:653
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