The Latest: Dutch populist unleashes anti-Islam invective
Posted March 14
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The latest on the final day of campaigning for the Dutch elections (all times local):
Dutch populist Geert Wilders ended his party's election campaign with another stream of invective against Islam and its Prophet Muhammad.
Already known for his anti-Islam rhetoric, Wilders showed no restraint on the eve of the Dutch elections.
He accused Muhammad of being a warlord and worse as he debated Islam with the leader of the Christian Union party.
Wilders also insisted that Islam was at its heart a violent religion, citing the extremist attacks perpetrated in the name of the Islamic State group.
Wilders, whose Party for Freedom is second in the polls ahead of Wednesday's election, was found guilty in a trial last year of insulting and inciting discrimination against Moroccans.
The leader of the left-wing party doing best in polls ahead of Wednesday's Dutch parliamentary election says the country needs a new leader with more compassion for refugees.
Jesse Klaver, the 30-year-old leader of the Green Left party, accused Prime Minister Mark Rutte of cynicism for defending a 2016 deal between the European Union and Turkey that slashed the flow of migrants into Europe.
Klaver, whose party is forecast to make strong gains in the election, said the deal was "not a solution, but only an excuse to look the other way."
He says, "I don't want a leader of a country who is proud we no longer give refugees a warm home or welcome when they are threatened by war and violence."
Rutte's right-wing VVD party is narrowly leading polls ahead of the election.
Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders used the last election debate to focus on a few hundred people who rioted at the end of a pro-Turkey demonstration, calling them "scum."
Wilders described the Labor Party's slogan — "The Netherlands belongs to us all" — as "rubbish, Woodstock lyrics by people who have been on the water pipe for too long."
The leader of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom insisted: "The Netherlands does not belong to all of us."
Wilders was referring to crowds gathered outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam late Saturday and early Sunday who became disruptive after a Turkish minister was prevented from addressing a political rally and escorted out of the country.
His Labor opponent, Lodewijk Asscher, who has been in government with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, retorted that Wilders was a man of "10,000 angry tweets and no solutions."
The Dutch-Turkish leader of a pro-migrant political party has pulled out of an election eve debate in the Netherlands.
National broadcaster NOS says Tunahan Kuzu of the Denk (Think) party pulled out of the event on Tuesday because he did not want to debate with right-wing populist Jan Roos.
During the nationally televised debate, Roos later called Kuzu a "lapdog of (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan" and his absence "cowardly and contemptuous of democracy."
The debate is the final clash of political leaders ahead of Wednesday's parliamentary election.
It comes amid a diplomatic crisis between the Netherlands and Turkey over a Dutch decision to prevent two Turkish ministers to address rallies about an upcoming referendum that would give Erdogan more power.
The Dutch Green Left party, led by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, has won an informal election held among students a day before the Netherlands goes to the polls for real.
According to results released Tuesday of votes by just under 140,000 students at 495 high schools, the Greens won 19.3 percent of the vote, followed in second place by the centrist liberal-democratic D66 party with 17.4 percent and the right-wing VVD of two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte in third with 15 percent.
"Students choose hope over fear," Klaver tweeted. "I hope that adults make the same choice tomorrow."
The far-right populism of Geert Wilders is apparently not as popular among the Dutch youth as it is for the country's adult population. While Wilders' Party for Freedom is in second place in polling for Wednesday's elections, it trailed in fourth in the school election with 12.6 percent.
The school election is organized by Pro Demos, an independent organization that informs the public about Dutch democracy.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has offered the resignation of his government to the Dutch monarch on the eve of parliamentary elections.
The move — a formality ahead of every parliamentary election in the Netherlands — effectively puts the coalition government of Rutte's Liberal VVD and the Labor party into a caretaker capacity.
Wednesday's election is expected to be followed by protracted coalition talks between several parties since no single party is likely to have an outright majority.
Even though a caretaker government is not supposed to make major decisions, Rutte could still face tough times over the coming weeks, especially with the diplomatic spat with Turkey further deteriorating in the last few days.
Amid unprecedented international attention, the Dutch go to the polls Wednesday in a parliamentary election that is seen as a bellwether for the future of populism in a year of crucial votes in Europe.
With the anti-Islam, far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders running just behind two-term right-wing Prime Minister Mark Rutte in polls, the Dutch vote could give an indication of whether the tide of populism that swept Britain toward the European Union exit door and Donald Trump into the White house has peaked.
The elections in the Netherlands come ahead of polls in France and Germany over the next half year, when right-wing nationalists will also be key players.
Rutte has driven through unpopular austerity measures over the last four years, but as the election approaches the Dutch economic recovery has gathered pace and unemployment has fallen fast.