From The Dawn:
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Geert Wilders, who built his popularity on his maverick image, has been hit with a series of embarrassments from other mavericks in his own party who are accused of misconduct or violent behaviour before becoming freshman lawmakers.
The scandals swirling around Wilders’ Freedom Party highlight the fragility of the new minority coalition government, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who needs the support of each one of Wilders’ parliament seats to stay in power in the Netherlands.
In the latest incident, a member of Wilders’ Freedom Party quit parliament Thursday amid reports he had hit an athlete with a spiked running shoe years ago and that a company he was involved with was fined for misleading consumers.
James Sharpe said he was quitting to spare his family from the intense scrutiny that members of Wilders’ party are being subjected to in the media.
He will be replaced by another party member after handing back his seat to Wilders, whose popularity is based largely on his tough anti-Islam rhetoric.
Last weekend, another Freedom Party legislator, Eric Lucassen, came under fire after reporters dug up a 2002 conviction for engaging in sexual relations with a subordinate when he was in the army. He also was twice fined for public order offences and harassing his neighbours.
On Monday, Wilders refused to fire Lucassen after Lucassen refused to relinquish his seat if he were forced to leave the party.
In one of the most significant setbacks to his meteoric rise in popularity, Wilders was forced to apologize to parliament and to his voters this week for the Lucassen scandal.