|Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders.|
© Mike Stone / Reuters
Never before has a politician won the award on three occasions. The Dutch Politician of the Year award is nominated annually by EenVandaag, a news program on public television, following a poll.
“It is great to be chosen by the public as Politician of the Year. It is a huge honor. And an encouragement to fight even harder for the interests of the Netherlands and the Dutch people in 2016,” the leader of the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) said.
Wilders, who had previously scooped the coveted title in 2010 and 2013, garnered a quarter of the more-than-37,000 votes. During a debate on the migrant crisis shortly before the announcement of the result, he shouted that all refugees must leave the country, Dutch website AD.nl reported.
The PVV is currently the leading party in the Dutch polls, more popular than the two governing coalition parties. The next challenge for Wilders is to become the next prime minister in the 2017 elections.
Wilders, 52, has a reputation for his hardline right-wing views and confrontational style. Last year he asked his supporters whether they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?” When the crowd cried “Fewer! Fewer!” Wilders replied: “We’re going to organize that,” prompting over 6,000 complaints.
Last month he said that the best way to deal with Europe’s growing refugee crisis is to close national borders and stop what Wilders called an “Islamic invasion.”
“The only way to deal with it [the refugee crisis] is to regain our national sovereignty and close our national borders,” Wilders told AFP in an exclusive interview.
“I’m not asking for anything strange, I am asking that our government close its doors as Hungary did …that we close our borders to those we consider to be migrants, not refugees,” he added.
Europe currently faces its biggest refugee crisis since the World War II, with almost a million new migrants and refugees being registered this year, more than twice as many as last year, according to the UN statistics. The Netherlands (home to 17 million) is expected to take in about 60,000 asylum seekers by the end of the year.
Support for Europe's right-wing movements skyrocketed following the Paris attacks of November 13, in which Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people and injured 352. Far-right groups seized the opportunity presented by the terrorists, castigating Islam, as well as thousands of Muslim refugees and migrants fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Dutch political activist Pierre Schweitzer told RT that the ongoing refugee crisis has triggered “the new rise of terrorism” in a certain way, boosting the popularity of Europe's far-right movements.
“The parties that are anti-Islamic are the same that have rightful arguments on the failure of other political parties. So it's a really bad situation here, because the only people that still have [a] little credit because they haven't been in power so far are the ones that have these xenophobic and anti-Islamic views.”
Fears escalated after reports that several of the IS attackers had actually slipped into the EU along with the crowds of asylum seekers fleeing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. This reinforced the mounting criticism of the reckless EU policy of welcoming migrants and refugees.
“People are angry, they are afraid, they want a different policy and the political elite is not listening to them,” Wilders told AFP.
“That’s why parties like mine all over Europe are getting very strong,” he added.
His Party for Freedom currently has 12 seats in the Dutch Parliament.
“The larger we become, the more difficult it will be to ignore us and I’m sure we have a chance to govern,” Wilders noted.
He also has big plans for pulling the Netherlands out of EU, arguing that countries will be better off without the organization.
“At a supernational level in Brussels, we never had a democracy. The European Commission, nobody elected them,” he said, urging Britons to vote for a ‘Brexit’ (British exit from the EU) in next year’s referendum, according to AFP.
Wilders took the chance to slam German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door policy towards refugees.
“I think it was very unprofessional and even irresponsible,” he told AFP, adding: “We should not have to pay for the stupidity of Angela Merkel.”
Last month Sweden became the fourth country to re-establish border controls since the start of the migrant crisis this summer. In September, Germany, Austria and Slovenia temporarily limited the free movement policy within the EU.