Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician of international notoriety, a man whose name is at the top of the Al-Qaeda hitlist.
He is known in the Western world for both his commitment to freedom of speech and for his rabid Islamphobia. He is also the leader of the Dutch PVV, the Party for Freedom, and has been a member of the Dutch House of Representatives for over 15 years.
However, there are some problems with his party. Since being established in 2006, his party has yet to really be a part of government or wield any real influence on legislation, since the party has only held the task of opposition.
All choices are made by Wilders, which seem to seriously hamper his own political efforts, or even to corrupt the process of transparency in campaign finances.
The question arises, can we really trust Geert Wilders?
One man, one party
An interesting detail about the Party for Freedom is that it has only one real member: Geert Wilders.
While Dutch law requires that any party needs to be started by more than one person, Wilders established the party together with another legal entity of which he again was the only member.
What in some way can be considered as a power move, can in other ways be seen as an impractical choice. The benefit of it is that Wilders is almost completely in charge of an inherently undemocratic party which has no way to rebel against him. The downside is that there are zero other people who are formally a member of the party.
This seriously hampers the recruitment of qualified members who rise up from the grassroots part of the movement. Additionally, the impossibility to have an open dialogue about the party course led multiple members to secede.
The followers of the PVV simply cannot influence the party democratically in any way. As a result, the PVV seems to not be able to field candidates in all local elections or to build a professional scandal free organisation.
The blunders of the PVV are unusually amateurish.
Recently, in the Rotterdam municipal election, a fielded candidate got caught having an open ethno-nationalist right wing online presence. Instantly after this went public he got booted from the party election list. This showed how unprofessionally candidates in major Dutch cities were vetted, the PVV apparently isn’t able to filter out people who openly do not share their alt-light views.
Other scandals included running candidates with a criminal record and a member of the House admitting he had a drinking problem. For a party that has been around for more than a decade, it still seems to be experiencing growing pains.
Who pays the bills?
In the Netherlands political parties gain income by way of contributions of members and subsidy based on the amount of members. Donations are an addition to this.
The PVV however completely depends on donations as it has but one member and it therefore gains no subsidies. In 2019 the Dutch government banned foreign donations from outside of the EU, one of the main reasons being the PVV receiving 120.000 euro from American donations in the last years.
Until recently, Israeli and American organizations were calling to their members to support Wilders. The pro-Israel, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Los Angeles, sent an email to their supporters claiming Wilders needed their help for a legal defense fund. Other big American donations came from the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which gave 108.000 euro.
These are some examples of the donations from the past that we know about, but because of how Wilders has structured his party, he doesn’t have to give complete insight in his financial business.
In other words, we are left in the dark about who else has donated money to the PVV. Any foreign entity, like Israel or the United States, could have given the PVV money without any of us knowing. Since nobody gives money away for free, we can wonder what these foreign agents wanted in return.
Although in the Netherlands every donation above 4.500 euro needs to be made public, many slightly lower donations can go undetected. Now that funding outside of the EU seems to be banned, it is unclear if foreign entities are not able to work around them through local entities and dual citizens.
For the future the PVV and Geert Wilders seem to still be a force that should be reckoned with. While not in power, they remain steadily represented in the opposition.
While Wilders had no serious opponent on his right flank, the Dutch 2019 senate elections in March showed a sign of decline, but was still backed by a solid performance of the PVV throughout the country. Up to this time Wilders remains firmly at the helm and shows no signs of letting go.
Can Wilders however be trusted by Dutch nationalists to lead the saving of their country? I for one sincerely doubt it.