Support for Dutch anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders increases after discrimination conviction

Dutch far-right Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders sits in a courtroom of the courthouse in Schiphol.Michael Kooren / Reuters

Support for Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders and his PVV (Freedom Party) party is soaring after his conviction for discriminating against Moroccans.

According to a poll conducted by the Maurice de Honde institute, the PVV is now the most popular party in the Netherlands and would win 36 of 150 parliamentary seats if elections were held today, making it the largest group.

Wilders' trial generated huge coverage ahead of next March's parliamentary elections.

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The poll lead comes amid a surge in support for populist right wing parties across Europe, and the victory of anti-immigration Republican Donald Trump in November's US presidential election.

According to the poll Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberals would place second with 23 seats against 40 they currently hold, and their junior coalition partner the Labour Party (PvDA) would place third, with only 10 seats as opposed to the 35 currently.

The PVV stood to win 27 seats according to polls taken before Wilder's trial began, with support increasing further in the wake of the verdict. The party stands to triple its representation in parliament, where it currently holds 12 seats.

It comes despite judges ruling on 9 December that "The inflammatory character of the way in which (Wilders') statements were made have incited others to discriminate people of Moroccan origin." Despite prosecutors demanding he be fined €5,000 (£4,300), no penalty was imposed.

Wilders was prosecuted for statements made at an election rally in 2014, in which he asked supporters if they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands". When the crowd shouted back "Fewer! Fewer!" a smiling Wilders answered: "We're going to organise that."

Police said that they had received more than 6,400 complaints about the comments, and during the trial prosecutors said Wilders needed to be held to account for racist remarks.

Wilders said he will appeal the verdict, and accused prosecutors and the judges of attempting to stifle freedom of speech. He boycotted most of the trial, including the day on which the verdict was delivered.

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