Firebrand anti-Islamisation politician Geert Wilders wore a bulletproof vest during the televised debate with current Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and during a later debate with other Dutch political leaders.
Wearing a bulletproof vest in public is nothing new to Wilders. The populist leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) has been under constant threat from Islamists for years and the danger increased following the screening of his controversial film Fitna in 2008.
The documentary, which interwove clips of Muslim violence and passages of the Quran, led to a backlash from the Islamic world and death threats.
However, in an unusual move, Wilders wore the protective vest in a television studio during Monday night’s debate with Prime Minister Rutte, Telegraaf reports.
The first reporter to claim Wilders was wearing the defence garb was Dutch journalist Xander van der Wulp who tweeted: “Violently, Wilders argues so we see the bullet-resistant vest.”
Heftig, Wilders debatteert zo te zien met kogelwerend vest. #1Vandaag
— Xander van der Wulp (@XandervdWulp) March 13, 2017
The comments were retweeted almost 200 times leading to journalist Inge Lengton of the Telegraaf confirming that Wilders wore the vest during the debate. Lengton tweeted she had received confirmation.
Geert Wilders (PVV) droeg vanavond inderdaad een kogelwerend vest, krijg ik bevestigd. #1Vdebat
— Inge Lengton (@IngeLengton) March 13, 2017
The security situation for the populist anti-mass migration politician has been severely strained in recent weeks leading up to Wednesday’s national election. It was revealed one of Wilders’ security staff, a man of Morrocan origin, had leaked security information, potentially compromising the safety of the politician, and was arrested.
Wilders then briefly suspended his campaign in late February. But the firebrand came back into the spotlight to protest the attempt by Turkish politicians to campaign for a referendum that would allow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to abolish the position of prime minister and consolidate his power.
The Netherlands banned two Turkish ministers from campaigning for Erdoğan over the weekend, and as a result, many Turkish residents in the country rioted. Wilders had a clear message for both the rioters and the Turkish politicians. In a video released online, he said: “We do not want more, but less Islam. So Turkey, stay away from us.”
During the debate with Prime Minister Rutte, Wilders called the leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) a “prime minister for foreigners”.
“I say to all Dutch people at home, when you go to vote on Wednesday, if you want to put our country up for sale and ensure that our money goes to asylum seekers, Brussels and Africa instead of our own people, vote for the VVD,” Wilders added.
Wilders is campaigning on a platform of anti-mass migration and anti-Islamisation. He has said he wants to shut down all mosques in the Netherlands and ban the Islamic holy book, the Quran.
Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at firstname.lastname@example.org