With low crime and unemployment, the sleepy Dutch fishing village of Voldendam hardly seems like a hotbed of discontent. Yet over a third of its voters are likely to back an anti-establishment nationalist Geert Wilders, in an upcoming election. Francis Maguire reports.
This is the sleepy Dutch fishing village of Volendam. Quiet, clean, with little crime and only three percent unemployment, it hardly seems like a hotbed of discontent. Yet, a third of Volendam residents are likely to back this firey anti-establishment, anti-immigrant nationalist in upcoming general elections: Geert Wilders. A symbol of a surge of populist leaders across Europe. Many Reuters spoke with suggested a fear of the future, and problems in the big cities spreading outwards. (SOUNDBITE) (Dutch) WILLEM VEERMAN, RETIREE, SAYING: "Imagine what a mess it would be in the zoo if all the cages were left open, and that's what's happening currently in Europe, all the borders are open and anyone can come inside." On the surface, it would appear to be a time of prosperity for the Netherlands. It's set to be the best performing economy in the euro zone this year, and it's population consistently ranks as among the happiest in the world. But in the country's second largest city, Rotterdam, over a third of its population are immigrants and the jobless rate is over 12 percent. Both are nationwide highs, and the city is a bastion of support for Wilders. An austerity campaign by the national government also hit the middle and lower class Dutch much harder than the rich, stoking perceptions of inequality. This voter is still undecided. (SOUNDBITE) (Dutch) VOLENDAM RESIDENT RENEE KEIJSER SAYING: "So much has happened in the world that it's hard to position yourself properly, so I don't know who I'll vote for yet." Wilders party is expected to take big gains in parliament, even if it's not enough to put him into power. After Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, the Netherlands may now write the next chapter for populism's resurgence.