Dutch populist Baudet says he won’t lead party at elections

International

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The leader of a Dutch right-wing populist party said Monday he wouldn’t lead it into parliamentary elections in March amid unrest caused by a report of far-right messages being exchanged by members of the party’s youth wing.

The decision of Thierry Baudet, considered a rising star of the populist right in Europe, came with his Forum For Democracy party divided over a weekend report that alleged that members of the party’s youth wing posted far-right and anti-Semitic messages in text groups.

In a statement, the youth wing said that those accused of sending the texts, rejected the report and said they were based on “quotes taken out of context.”

The party set up an investigative commission to look into the allegations published over the weekend in national daily Het Parool, but Baudet said some people within the party weren’t prepared to await the results.

“If a culture of trial by media is created and if things have indeed happened that are unacceptable, in both cases I want to take political responsibility,” Baudet said in a video message posted on his party’s Twitter account. “I am renouncing my place on the electoral list. I’m making my position available.”

Baudet said he would remain in the parliament and involved in the party, which won two of the lower house’s 150 seats at the last election. A poll of polls currently tips the party to win between four and eight seats in March.

Despite only having two lawmakers in the lower house of the national parliament, Baudet’s party was propelled into the Dutch political mainstream when it won local elections in March 2019.

His party calls for a “restrictive” Dutch immigration policy, a referendum on the euro currency and on European Union membership for the Netherlands, one of the bloc’s founding nations.

“The immigration we get here from Africa and the Mideast is completely contrary to our culture, our values, our way of life, tolerance, love of women and so on,” Baudet said in a debate with Prime Minister Mark Rutte in May last year. “That has to stop and it will not happen at the European level.”

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