Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is one of the oddest men on the world stage. He's been banned from entering the UK, denounced as a fascist, and largely blacklisted throughout Europe due to his staunch and outspoken opposition to militant Islam. And in a few months he might be prime minister of the Netherlands. The coalition government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende collapsed over the weekend, and parliamentary elections are now scheduled for June 9. Recent polling shows Wilders' "Party for Freedom" in first place with the potential to win 27 seats in parliament, and several parties are grudgingly open to forming a coaltion with him if he wins.
Wilders' controversial film Fitna denounces Islam as a whole, and he wants the Koran - which he calls a "fascist book" - outlawed in the Netherlands (on the same grounds that Mein Kampf is currently outlawed in that country). His main campaign theme is halting the supposed Islamic takeover of his country, by way of dramatic restrictions on immigration--so naturally he creates a great deal of unease among Muslim citizens (whose numbers top one million out of a total population of over 16 and a half million).
But Wilders is totally unlike "far-right" leaders in the rest of Europe. He is a harsh critic of racism and anti-Semitism, and he is no friend of "far-right neo-fascist" leaders such as the French National Front's Jean-Marie Le Pen or the British National Party's Nick Griffin. In fact, while those leaders are broadly anti-Semitic and isolationist, Wilders was actually shaped by years spent in Israel as a young man. Hence, he is one of the Jewish state's strongest European defenders, an advocate of the war on terror, and a firm critic of Jihad--stances which have won him fans among national security hawks in the U.S. Furthermore, his economic agenda is radically libertarian compared to most Europeans and could be a vanguard for European reform.
But you can be sure his campaign will be filled with controversy. The Netherlands should buckle up for a wild ride on the Wilders Express.