There is a greater chance of political violence in the Netherlands or against Dutch nationals abroad in the run-up to the Dutch parliamentary elections on 9 June. That’s the warning from the country’s National Anti-terrorism Coordinator Erik Akerboom. However, he says there are no concrete indications so far of any preparations for such violence.
The latest Dutch threat analysis – just published - states that the ‘Islam debate’ in the Netherlands may get out of hand. The threat could also increase after the elections if there are substantial changes to the political make-up of parliament, says Mr Akerboom. Current polls show that Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party – anti-Islam in its policies - could win many more seats.
Group or individual?
"The threat could come from any direction,” says Mr Akerboom. "It could be politically motivated, by people with an agenda, who want change. Or it could come from people who have just lost touch with reality, but who are very upset about something. We call these the lone-acting, confused individual threats." Just before the 2002 parliamentary elections, opposition candidate Pim Fortuyn was murdered by an environmental-animal rights activist, acting alone. "The bullet came from the Left," said his fellow party members at the time.
Mr Akerboom’s analysis is based on several sources, including foreign ones. " Strong views are being expressed in the Islam debate. And the debate isn’t just being followed in the Netherlands, but abroad as well. In particular, in Islamic countries and especially in ‘Jihad circles’," the anti-terrorism supreme observes. "Internet and the media make it a small world. We have seen elsewhere in the world where incitement to violence and calls to action can lead to."
A few months ago, the national anti-terrorism coordinator concluded that the threat of Muslim violence in the Netherlands had decreased. Nevertheless, Mr Akerboom acknowledges that the publicity surrounding politician Geert Wilders means there’s now also a greater risk outside the Netherlands. In countries where the al-Qaeda network operates, the chance of an attack on Dutch targets could be greater.
According to Mr Akerboom, extremists pick on aspects of the Dutch debate about Islam to portray the Netherlands generally as a hostile country for Muslims.
'Say what you think'
In his election campaign, Geert Wilders doesn’t want to allow the threat of terrorism to hold him back. In a reaction he says,
"I operate within every rule and every law. I strive for less Islam in the Netherlands both in parliament and in my election manifesto. That is a legitimate standpoint. The fact that there is a threat of violence as a result is very bad. It is bad for every party and for democracy. But it would be even worse if we did not discuss these matters because of the threat of violence. You have to be able to say what you believe or what you think."
"Fear is a bad advisor, but it is good to be aware of the possible risks," Mr Akerboom believes. "That way, when measures are taken, they are not such a surprise."
Anti-terrorism coordinator Erik Akerboom declines to say what precise measures are likely to be taken in the light of an increased threat of terrorism. But he does say that security for politicians may be increased.