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Dutch firebrand aims to bring down European parliament

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, who has gained international notoriety with his attacks on Islam, is now aiming to bring down the European parliament -- from the inside.

The 45-year-old, with his platinum dyed hair and 24 hour protection after multiple death threats, has made sure his Party for Freedom (PVV) has been at the centre of the Dutch campaign for the June 4-7 election to the EU parliament.

"Every voter who wants to signal that the European Union is good for nothing in its current form can do so by voting for Geert Wilders," he said.

Wilders occupies the tenth and last place on the PVV's list for the election. But he has insisted he will not take a seat if elected -- having put forward the unknown Barry Madlener to head the party's first EU vote campaign.

Wilders faces a trial at home for his anti-Islam utterings and was recently barred from entering Britain to stop him spreading "hatred and violent messages," particulary in his movie "Fitna" in which he said Islam was fascist.

But he is at the height of its popularity at home and the PVV hopes to take up to four of the 25 Dutch seats in the 736 member EU assembly, despite advocating its demise.

He declared in a recent newspaper interview that he wants "to bring it down from inside."

"Wilders holds up Europe, Islam and immigration as evils," political analyst Alfred Pijpers said, recalling how Dutch voters rejected a proposed European constitution in a 2005 referendum.

Some polls suggest the country is now more sceptical than ever about continental cooperation, boosting the PVV's campaign for "More Netherlands, less Europe".

The populist politician wants the June 4 vote in the Netherlands to serve as a test of attitudes toward Europe and has urged Dutch voters to turn out en masse.

"He is the only one to position himself against Europe in such an extreme way, and has thereby transformed the election into a new referendum: Wilders against the rest of the political establishment," analyst Andrew Krouwel told AFP.

"He can only emerge victorious," said Krouwel, as three PVV seats out of 25 in the European Parliament could be translated as equalling national support of 18 out of 150 seats on the Dutch parliament.

The PVV, formed in 2006, currently has nine seats in the domestic parliament, compared to 41 for Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) which rules in coalition with the Labour Party and the Christian Union.

But recent polls have put the PVV neck-and-neck with the CDA in terms of national support.

Regarded by many as the sole voice for Dutch disquiet about the economic and cultural implications of Islamic immigration, the PVV calls for government based on Judeo-Christian principles.

It seeks the eviction of Romania and Bulgaria from the European Union, a freeze on future enlargement and believes Turkey should not become a member "not now, not in a hundred years".

"The PVV takes part in the European elections ... because the islamisation has to be stopped," states a message on the party's website. "We want to be the boss of our own country."

The only cooperation, it says, should be economic.

Some 375 million voters across Europe will elect deputies for a five-year term on the parliament, responsible for passing pan-European legislation as well as the commission's annual budget -- about 140 billion euros in 2010.

The parliament is expected to stay under centre right control but the PVV is one of many far-right parties across the 27-nation bloc making a claim for seats in the parliament that they nearly all oppose. (By ALIX RIJCKAERT)

MySinchew 2009.05.24


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