Geert Wilders is the man in whom foreign journalists are more interested than ever this year. Researchers who are able to provide an interpretation of his success, receive phone calls all day. 'In other countries, the image of The Netherlands is distorted.'
Kristof Jacobs, political scientist:
‘I received phone calls from Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, America and twice from Japan. They usually want to know three things: 1. Is Wilders going to be te new Prime Minister? 2. Can you explain the Dutch paradox – the country is doing so well, and still populism is on the rise. 3. Is Wilders going to seek a referendum to leave the European Union?’
‘I answer, for example, that there are many parties who run in the elections, and that Wilders is not the only one who receives votes. I also mention that he is not doing so well in the polls at the moment. I create context. About the referendum: in The Netherlands, a coalition is necessary. Wilders’ referendum will not happen. I don’t know how the journalists find me, to be honest. Today, I am busy with classes. I told the media to come back tomorrow. You are lucky that I had to print a paper and picked up the phone.’
Niels Spierings, political sociologist:
‘This is an important part of our job: making sure facts that journalists bring out into the world are correct and explain them a little. People from Finland and the Czech Republic have called me. When journalists call, they often have two questions. The first is wether social media influence the elections. We research that question in Nijmegen.’
‘They know Wilders and have a vague idea of what he does. I explain that his social media activity is overestimated. Other parties have a much bigger reach. Question two is why Wilders is so successful. I tell them that he is actually not doing that well at the moment, and that the PVV (Wilder’s Party for Freedom) might get 15 percent of the votes and could even come in worse than in 2010. In other countries, the image of The Netherlands is distorted. It’s like Wilders is already likely to become Prime Minister.’