Polls: Dutch anti-Islam party sinks in European elections

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A Dutch far-right party that founded a nationalist bloc in Brussels has seen a massive electoral loss, exit polls suggested.

The anti-Islam, anti-immigration Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders can expect to lose up to two of its five seats at the European Parliament, according to exit polls conducted by the news site GeenStijl.nl of the still-ongoing elections.

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The exit polls are based on a sample of 200,000 votes cast at hundreds of ballots throughout the Netherlands, the news site Elesvier reported. The polls suggest that Wilders’ party is down to 12 percent of the vote from the 17 percent it garnered in the 2009 election, the public broadcaster NOS reported.

The Party for Freedom, or PVV, allied itself last year with France’s National Front party and announced the formation of a new rightist bloc of parties opposed to the European Union and to what they regard as the “Islamization of Europe.”

The alliance drew condemnations by Dutch Jewish community leaders of the PVV — which is declaredly pro-Israel and pro-Jewish — because many consider National Front to have anti-Semitic overtones.

The National Front is led by Marine Le Pen, who says she rejects anti-Semitism, but the party’s honorary president is Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, who has multiple convictions for Holocaust denial and incitement of racial hatred against Jews and other minorities. Earlier this year, Austria’s Freedom Party, which also is accused of espousing anti-Semitic views, joined the bloc.

Wilders attributed his party’s apparent poor showing in the elections to low turnout, but according to Elsevier, turnout was the highest it has been since 1989, with 37 percent of eligible voters participating.

Ballots for the European Parliament are scheduled to close Sunday.

The European Jewish Congress last week posted a video on YouTube calling for electors across the European member states to vote under the banner “Your Europe – Your Freedoms – Your Choice.”

The video highlights freedoms that the congress said are guaranteed by the European Union and criticizes indifference to the elections as a loss of those freedoms.

“The European Union has preserved the peace on this continent for 70 years. We don’t have the right to kill it with our apathy,” European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said in a statement Wednesday.