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Wilders decries Turkish rallies in bid to revive Dutch campaign

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By Alasdair Sandford
Wilders decries Turkish rallies in bid to revive Dutch campaign

With a week to go till the Dutch elections on March 15, populist leader Geert Wilders led a small protest outside Turkey’s embassy.

He and a few dozen activists from his anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) unfurled a banner containing the slogan, in Turkish: “stay away, this is our country”.

Turkish politicians plan to address rallies in the Netherlands and Germany to canvass Turkish expats, seeking support for President Erdogan over their country’s constitutional referendum.

The issue has stirred controversy in both countries and presented an obvious campaign opportunity for Wilders.

“This is Holland, so stay away. And I hope the Dutch government will be a little bit more tough and tell them that they are not welcome to lobby here, we are not a country where foreign people who support people like Mr. Erdogan to give him even more power and give him more autocracy,” Wilders told reporters, speaking in English.

Opinion polls suggest Wilders has slipped behind Mark Rutte’s liberals, but his impact has already been felt.

The prime minister’s centre-right VDD party and others have toughened their rhetoric on immigration and Islam.

The post-election scenario could be complicated: nearly 30 parties are seeking representation in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, and more than a dozen may succeed.

Several, including the conservative Christian Democrats (CDA), and the centrist pro-EU liberal democrats (D66), have a chance of being in a future coalition. The leftist Greens (Groenlinks) have also been gaining ground.

But forming a coalition government amid such a fragmented political landscape could take time.

Mainstream parties have ruled out working with Wilders – but he is likely to loom large in opposition.

The Dutch vote is being closely watched in France and Germany, where populist forces are also making a strong imprint on elections taking place this year.