Geert Wilders, leader of the eurosceptic, anti-immigration Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), is about start his career at the European Parliament by being as awkward as possible.
Wilders, who will be allied in Brussels and Strasbourg with Marine Le Pen’s Front National, the right-wing party that topped the polls in France, says he intends to take up the seat he won in the parliament in last month’s elections, but will refuse to resign the seat he already holds in the Dutch national parliament.
Wilders calls it respect for democracy and the 300,000 people who voted for him. The European Parliament calls it against the rules.
Until 2002, voters could decide to send the same person to represent them in both their national parliament and in the European Parliament. Then an EU decision ended dual mandates in most countries, with dual mandate being banned entirely from 2009.
But the ban was opposed by many eurosceptics, who saw it as a further erosion of the democratic power of voters to decide for themselves who should represent them. Eurosceptics also saw it as a further decrease in the power of national institutions to control the EU.
Wilders says he is going to attempt to take his seat in the European Parliament when the new term begins on July 1, and if he is barred by officials in Brussels and Strasbourg, he is ready to mount a legal challenge at the European Court of Justice, according to Dutch press reports.
The PVV leader points out that the EU decision has never been introduced into Dutch law. He says there is support for the dual mandate among Dutch MPs outside his own party, and that he made it clear to voters he intended to hold both seats: “It would be utterly absurd if Brussels were to forbid me from representing my voters in the European Parliament too.”