Geert Wilders Resonates in Rotterdam’s Working-Class District: A Testament to Populist Appeal

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Populism Strikes a Chord in Oud Crooswijk

Geert Wilders, the far-right leader of the Netherlands, has emerged victorious in the recent elections, causing ripples across Europe. However, in one of the country’s poorest districts, Oud Crooswijk in Rotterdam, the populist message of Wilders seems to have found a receptive audience. Residents, weary from years of financial struggles, express a desire to see Wilders, known for his peroxide hair and outspoken views, lead the nation.

Echoes of Working-Class Roots

Oud Crooswijk, with its working-class heritage, bears visible reminders of its past. Former brewery buildings and aged social housing flats replace abattoirs and tram depots, portraying the neighborhood’s economic challenges. In this “people’s neighborhood,” many of the approximately 8,000 residents reveal that they have cast their votes in favor of Wilders and his far-right Freedom Party (PVV).

A Plea for Change Amidst Hardships

Residents like Rashida, 47, express their support for Wilders based on a belief that he can instigate positive changes in critical areas such as housing, elderly care, and healthcare self-payment gaps. Despite some disagreements with Wilders’ views, they view him as a potential catalyst for improvement, especially considering the perceived deterioration under the previous government. The memory of Pim Fortuyn, a similar populist figure, resonates in the neighborhood, reinforcing the appeal of Wilders’ anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, and eurosceptic stance.

The Complex Landscape of Poverty

Oud Crooswijk remains entrenched in poverty, with residents facing economic hardships. Nearly one-third of the neighborhood’s inhabitants have Moroccan roots, contributing to the diverse demographic landscape. The annual salary for breadwinners falls significantly below the national average, marking Oud Crooswijk as the “poorest postal code” in the country in 2016. Despite a few weeks of a new food bank, the challenges persist, with shuttered shopfronts and closed-down establishments dotting the main street.

A Mix of Optimism and Caution

While some, like Kevin, 19, express optimism about Wilders’ potential to bring about change and address housing affordability, others, like Diny, 81, adopt a more cautious stance. Diny emphasizes the need to “wait and see” if the PVV can fulfill its promises and make a positive impact. The sentiments in Oud Crooswijk reflect the nuanced perspectives of a community seeking change amidst enduring hardships.

SOURCE: Ref Image from Arab News Pakistan

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