A Prosperous Dutch Village Hopes For A Right-Wing 'Bit Of Revolution' : Parallels The Dutch village of Volendam is prosperous, picturesque — and a stronghold of Geert Wilders' far-right Freedom Party. Though it has few immigrants, Wilders' anti-immigrant message resonates.
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A Prosperous Dutch Village Hopes For A Right-Wing 'Bit Of Revolution'

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A Prosperous Dutch Village Hopes For A Right-Wing 'Bit Of Revolution'

A Prosperous Dutch Village Hopes For A Right-Wing 'Bit Of Revolution'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Populist movements are gaining ground across Europe, and not just in economically depressed areas. Reporter Lauren Frayer visited a wealthy corner of the Netherlands where anti-globalization sentiments are running high.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: If you book a tour of old-fashioned Holland, the guide will likely take you to Volendam, a picturesque village with cobblestone streets, tulips and seagulls pecking at fish on the pier. That's where Yop Kaiser sells the local delicacy - smoked feels.

YOP KAISER: (Speaking Dutch) Mackerel.

FRAYER: Mackerel.

KAISER: Herring.

FRAYER: Eels, herring. How long is this shop here?

KAISER: Forty-five.

FRAYER: Forty-five years?

KAISER: (Speaking Dutch).

FRAYER: Forty-five years in business, and not much has changed in prosperous Volendam, with its waterfront homes and sailboats. There's almost full employment here and very few immigrants. But Theo Stirk, who owns a local fish-canning factory, says he and most of his neighbors quietly support the far-right Freedom Party.

THEO STIRK: They talk about it at parties and with people they know, but they don't publish it. Geert, he says things that a lot of Dutch people think.

FRAYER: The guy Geert he's talking about is Geert Wilders, the Freedom Party leader. He wants to ban Muslim immigration and pull out of the European Union. It's a bit of a contradiction for the Dutch, who've long defined themselves as open to the world - naval explorers, international bankers. Holland took in Jews after the Spanish Inquisition. The world's largest Muslim country, Indonesia, used to be a Dutch colony. But globalization has gone too far, says Stirk, the fish factory owner.

STIRK: The Netherlands' economy is founded on different people from the Middle Ages. But if you allow them to come in your country, you must ask them to fit in in our society and to do the same things as we are doing.

FRAYER: He thinks religious Muslims don't fit in, that they pose a threat to liberal values that have become synonymous with Holland - equality, gay rights, legalized drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: At the Volendam soccer field, coach Wem Krockman says he supports banning immigration because the Netherlands, with just 17 million people, is already one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.

WEM KROCKMAN: You see all the fugitives who are coming by boat to Italy, to Turkey. They are looking for jobs, looking for houses. And there's only one man in Holland who says, take care, in 10 years we have a problem. And we think he's right.

FRAYER: That one man? Geert Wilders. In his political speeches, Wilders invokes nostalgia for places like Volendam, for the traditional Holland that the tourists come to see. But Dutch people rarely wear wooden clogs anymore. And that old Dutch identity the far right likes to play up may be mostly imaginary, says Bulent Ozturk, one of the soccer dads on the field. He's actually from an immigrant family.

BULENT OZTURK: You can start talking about windmills and clocks and tulips, but Holland doesn't really have an identity. You know, when you're talking about Dutch characteristics, you could also speak about a German or a Danish identity because they're the same, almost the same.

FRAYER: In those countries, too, just like in little Volendam, there is an increasingly vocal nostalgia for a white Christian past. Geert Wilders is riding that sentiment and is forecast to win the most votes in Holland's election this March. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Volendam, the Netherlands.

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