Dutch Wilders Loses Top Poll Position After Anti-Moroccan Chant

Reuters
People take part in a protest against Geert Wilders in Amsterdam
People take part in a protest against Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch hard-right Freedom Party, in Amsterdam March 22, 2014. REUTERS/Cris Toala Olivares

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders has lost his top position in opinion polls after making anti-Moroccan comments that unleashed a public backlash and prompted several high-profile resignations from his party.

Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) would win five fewer seats in the Dutch parliament if elections were held today compared to last week, according to the latest figures by pollster Maurice de Hond.

Wilders has been hit by a series of resignations after leading a chant against Moroccan immigrants in The Hague on Wednesday. Among those who quit was the head of the PVV in the European Parliament, Laurence Stassen.

The next big test for the party will come at European Parliament elections in May.

The PVV slipped five seats from a week ago to 22 and would come in third place behind the Socialist Party and the right-of-center Democrats 66, the poll showed. The PVV won 15 seats in the Dutch parliament in the 2012 election.

Wilders led the chant at a rally after municipal elections. He asked supporters in The Hague: "Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?"

"Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!", the crowd chanted. Wilders responded: "We'll take care of that."

The comments drew widespread condemnation in the Netherlands and abroad. Thousands of people filed complaints of discrimination with Dutch prosecutors, while several PVV members have quit from the national assembly and city councils.

On Saturday, Wilders said he wasn't sorry, had not violated anti-discrimination laws and would not apologize to anyone.

While Wilders also lost some support among his electorate, 85 percent of people who voted for him said they still backed him as leader of the Party for Freedom.

A quarter of 1,200 PVV voters polled last week by television program EenVandaag said his comments went too far. (Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Rosalind Russell)