Immigration – a hot topic in Dutch politics, but strangely absent from the campaign leading up to the general election. In previous years the issue dominated the political debate, particularly following the killing of film-maker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamist extremist two years ago.
But analysts agree that with parties from all sides backing a tough stance on immigration and voters growing tired of the debate, questions on health, pensions, taxes and housing have taken over. But for Geert Wilders of the far-right Party for Freedom, immigration is the main topic:
“I fear the tsunami of islamisation coming to Europe and the Netherlands and Islam is a violent religion and the Koran is a violent book, so we should stop inviting more Islam to the Netherlands. I believe and I make a distinction between the religion and the people, I don’t believe in a European, I don’t believe in a moderate Islam – Islam is a wrong religion – but I do believe in people, so I think that we should now try to invest in all the moderate Muslims that fortunately are in a majority already in the Netherlands.”
Immigrants’ rights groups are expressing concern that this stance is now part of mainstream political thought in the Netherlands today. The incumbent government has hardened its line on immigration in recent years. Many Muslims, who make up more than five percent of the population, say they feel isolated and neglected by the government.
Abdou Menhebi, director of a centre for studies on immigration, says politicians have gone along with discriminating legislation against immigrants because they were afraid of losing votes: “That’s why we’re disappointed,” he said, “because the stance isn’t clear on questions of extradition or security.”
Boasting a strong economic record and healthy employment figures, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s right-wing coalition appears to be on the road to recovery after recent political setbacks. The question of his controversial alliance with the far-right will once again be put under the spotlight on Wednesday.