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Dutch populist faces backlash on Moroccan remarks

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AMSTERDAM (AP) — Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders is facing the most serious backlash of his career, as prosecutors said Friday they have lost track of the number of complaints filed against him and two of the 14 members of his parliamentary faction quit in protest.

At a meeting of Wilders' Freedom Party Wednesday, he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, drawing them into the chant "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!"

"We'll take care of it," he promised.

Though Wilders frequently courts controversy, reactions this time may have been more negative than he was expecting.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative VVD Party had been the only mainstream Dutch party to consider cooperation with Wilders, but Rutte now says that's not possible "as long as these are the standpoints of the Freedom Party." Meanwhile, two of the Freedom Party's 14 lawmakers resigned from the party in protest.

Wilders replied that he won't change his stance and complained of a "witch hunt" against him by the media and rival politicians.

Many commentators have said Wilders' remarks contradict the opening words of the Dutch constitution, which specify that discrimination against anybody in the Netherlands for any reason is not permitted.

Prosecutors in The Hague said Friday they are weighing whether to prosecute Wilders for inciting hatred.

There are approximately 350,000 Moroccans in the Netherlands, which has a population of 17 million.

In 2011, Wilders was acquitted of hate speech charges for anti-Islam remarks including a call to ban the Quran. The trial was a publicity coup for him.

News broadcaster RTL broke a 25-year editorial silence Thursday to say Wilders "should be ashamed."

"However a judge may rule, you're sowing hate and you're discriminating. On the scale of wrongness you're so wrong here that it cannot pass unstated," it said.

A snap poll by broadcaster AVRO found that 64 percent of Dutch people thought Wilders' statement was "unacceptable" — though 30 percent agreed with him.

Wilders was not available for comment Friday.

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