‘Act normally or leave’: Dutch prime minister calls on immigrants ‘to adapt’ ahead of elections

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 10:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 10:30pm

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday urged people to vote for stability in coming elections and called on immigrants “to adapt,” seeking to drain support for the far right.

Those people who refuse to adapt, and criticise our values [must] ... act normally or leave
Prime Minister Mark Rutte

Bidding for a third term in government, Rutte’s conservative liberal VVD party launched its campaign slogan “Act. Normally” in an open letter to “All Dutch people”.

At a time of political turbulence in Europe and the United States, Rutte positioned himself firmly as a candidate of the status quo. But in an effort to woo supporters of anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party is currently topping opinion polls, Rutte warned that “those people who refuse to adapt, and criticise our values” must “act normally or leave”.

He took issue with those who “harass gay people, or whistle at women in short skirts”. He said he understood why some “people think that ‘if you so fundamentally reject this country then I’d prefer it if you leave’”.

“Sometimes it seems that no one acts normally any more,” he wrote in the letter, published in a full-page advertisement in two Dutch newspapers. “Anti-social people who always believe they should have priority. Who dump rubbish on the streets, who spit on the conductors on the trains and trams.

“But the solution is not to lump everyone in the same bag, to insult or expel whole groups from our country.”

During his time at the head of two coalition governments, Rutte has won a reputation as a pragmatist in a country noted for its stability. But as general elections loom on March 15, Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) have gained traction with a heavily anti-immigration, anti-EU and anti-Islam message which has struck home among parts of the electorate worried by Europe’s migrant influx.

Dutch MP Geert Wilders courts controversy by suggesting women carry pepper spray to fend off Muslim men

In December, Wilders was found guilty of discrimination for comments he made about Moroccans living in the country. Rutte has said he would refuse to work with him in a coalition government.

Rutte argued in the letter that voters must defend Dutch values, and announced he would be holding a live Facebook chat later Monday.

The elections will kick off a closely watched “super election” year in Europe, with far-right and populist parties seeking to upend the political landscape in countries such as France and Germany.