Right-wing populist leader Geert Wilders, center right, arrives for a meeting of party leaders with the chairwoman of the parliament to discus first steps in forming a new Dutch coalition government in The Hague, March 16, 2017. (Peter Dejong/AP)

If the Dutch anti-Islam leader Geert Wilders were any other politician, his robust election showing this week would warrant a shot at joining a political coalition.

But the bleached-blond agitator says Moroccans are “scum,” mosques are havens of terrorism and the Koran is a blueprint for destruction, positions no mainstream Dutch leader will endorse.

The anxious conventional leaders of Europe, fearful that an anti-establishment surge was unstoppable, breathed with relief after Dutch voters in Wednesday’s election failed to make Wilders the biggest politician in the Netherlands. They hope for a repeat in France and Germany later this year. But for those who think that the Netherlands is now as placid as its canals, Wilders’s followers have a message: They are furious that they have been locked out of power. And they say their ranks will continue to grow.

“This is a very big shame. It’s unacceptable. There are so many people who are just being put aside,” said Katherine ter Weide, an elegantly dressed 72-year-old in the Wilders stronghold of Almere who said Friday that she feared “how the world for our children and grandchildren is being destroyed.”

“All the things he’s been warning over all these years have come true,” she said. “They’ve always been closing their eyes.”

(Michael Birnbaum,Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

First it was the headscarves in the streets of her tidy planned community, a three-decade-old city just outside Amsterdam built on land reclaimed from the sea.

Then it was the gang of Moroccan men who she said assaulted her 19-year-old granddaughter, a memory so painful that it brings her to tears.

And when a dark-skinned man zoomed down a pedestrian shopping plaza and ter Weide yelled at him that he needed to go back on the street, he rode up and threatened her, she said, draining any remaining sense of security.

“They are afraid of him,” she said of her nation’s establishment leaders and their view toward Wilders. “And they don’t want him to be right. But he’s right all the time.”

For now, Wilders can enjoy the luxury of being his nation’s largest opposition force, armed with an outsize megaphone but deprived of the responsibilities of power. He need not compromise — as he once did during a spell inside a coalition from 2010 until 2012 — and he therefore need not disappoint either his loyalists or those who might be swayed into his camp. He has vowed to emerge on top after the next election.

“The fight against Islamization and the E.U. will now simply be tougher, stronger and more effective as the second largest party in the Netherlands!” Wilders wrote on Twitter on Friday, embracing the expansion of his seats in parliament by a third.

In the end, he gathered 1.7 million votes — a robust force in a nation of 15.9 million eligible voters, especially given the fractured political landscape where voters could choose among 28 parties. It was the best-ever showing for Wilders in absolute votes, even if it yielded fewer seats in parliament than after the 2010 elections. And the recent campaign was held on his terms, orbiting around issues of immigration, integration and Islam.

The advantage he might derive from his exclusion from power could be seen in Almere’s streets Friday, as even some people who did not vote for him said that he ought to be included in a coalition.

“It’s not right. He should have the chance” to join the government, said Rina van Dijk, 59, who lost her job at a Dutch window-blind manufacturer when production was outsourced to Poland. Van Dijk can’t find another job — “I’m too old,” she said — and she says parts of Wilders’s message make sense, even if she doesn’t always like the way he says it.

“People are on a waiting list for 10 years, and they don’t get a place to live. These refugees come here, and they get a place to live right away. I understand those tensions,” she said.

She said she wanted Wilders to be handed a scrap of power, even though she voted for the center-right party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“I would like to see, with all the things Wilders is saying, whether he can do anything,” she said.

The exclusion also carries a cost for those who want Wilders to moderate his tone, analysts said.

“He is more isolated than he ever was before. The risk in this is that he has no option but to further radicalize,” said Job Janssen, a Dutch political analyst who lives in Berlin. “To continue to dominate debate, the only option is a confrontational course.”

Even so, Janssen said that Wilders probably has hit his ceiling. He did little to build a campaign structure, and his shoestring budget limited his appearances. A constellation of new far-right parties also drained some of his support.

Further, he has given little indication of an effort that would help him transcend his status as perpetual gadfly and object of media fascination.

“This is not the behavior of a man who is trying to become a coalition partner,” said Koen Vossen, who wrote a book analyzing Wilders’s political appeal and organization.

But a growing number of Dutch voters truly want a political revolution in their country, pollsters say — and their faith in their institutions is cratering when the leaders they support are excluded from office.

“There are a lot of Muslims. There are a lot of black people. The white people, the Dutch people, they’re getting less and less,” said Linda Muis, 51, a bartender at Café Cheers in Almere.

She said that her nation needs to fight back. When a Moroccan kid commits a crime, the whole family should be sent back to Morocco, she said.

“Or lock them up for life,” she said. “Wilders said women shouldn’t wear headscarves. I agree with that.”

Wilders’s shutout from power infuriates her, she said — and she said her faith in Dutch democracy was going out the window.

“So many people voted for him. But nobody wants to do a coalition with him,” she said. “Nobody’s going to let him win.”


Annabell Van den Berghe contributed to this report.