Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders doubled down on a racist chant on Saturday, blaming the media and political opponents for misrepresenting his words in order to disparage him. “I said nothing wrong,” he insisted. “I’m not sorry.”
Wilders’ statement followed the resignation of two Freedom Party parliamentarians and the group’s leader in the European Parliament, Laurence Stassen. Several local deputies resigned from the party as well or threatened to step down. It is the worst party mutiny since Wilders formed the Freedom Party in 2006.
On Wednesday night, after municipal elections in The Hague, Wilders asked voters, “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city?” The crowd chanted “Fewer! Fewer!” to which the party leader replied, “I’ll take care of that.”
Prosecutors say they have received more than one hundred requests to investigate Wilders for hate speech.
Wilders’ party only competed in Almere and The Hague in Wednesday’s city council elections. It lost votes in both but remained the largest party in the former.
Moroccans comprise 2.2 percent of the Netherlands’ population and under 6 percent of The Hague’s. Government research has shown that Dutch citizens of Moroccan descent tend to be better integrated than those of Chinese or Turkish origin but they are also disproportionately represented among juvenile delinquents and welfare recipients. Nearly a quarter of Moroccan Dutch are on welfare compared to 10 percent for native Dutch.
Wilders campaigns against what he describes as the creeping “Islamization” of the Netherlands and “mass immigration” from Muslim countries — although emigration to those countries has outpaced immigration in recent years. In 2012, more Dutch citizens of Islamic descent left the Netherlands than applied for citizenship.
Wilders was prosecuted for hate crimes in 2007 for calling Islam a fascist ideology but was acquitted in 2011 when his party supported Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s minority government.
Rutte, who leads the ruling liberal party, distanced himself from Wilders’ remarks on Friday, saying they left a “foul taste” in his mouth. He also ruled out future cooperation with Wilders, being the last major party leader to do so.
Rutte’s Labor Party partners suggested blocking all parliamentary proposals from the Freedom Party but others seem unlikely to support such a cordon sanitaire.
Polls have shown Wilders’ party on track to win most seats in May’s European Parliament election. He has built an alliance with France’s Front national and other Euroskeptic parties to form a bloc against deeper European integration.