Europe

Dutch far-right populist Wilders kicks off election campaign

  • Firebrand int-islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, center, poses for a picture during an election campaign stop in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands Saturday Feb. 18, 2017. Now, as a March 15 parliamentary election looms, the political mood is turning inward as Wilders dominates polls with an isolationist manifesto that calls for the Netherlands "to be independent again. So out of the EU." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Firebrand int-islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, center, poses for a picture during an election campaign stop in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands Saturday Feb. 18, 2017. Now, as a March 15 parliamentary election looms, the political mood is turning inward as Wilders dominates polls with an isolationist manifesto that calls for the Netherlands "to be independent again. So out of the EU." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

  • Firebrand int-islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, center, talks to the media during an election campaign stop in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands Saturday Feb. 18, 2017. Now, as a March 15 parliamentary election looms, the political mood is turning inward as Wilders dominates polls with an isolationist manifesto that calls for the Netherlands "to be independent again. So out of the EU." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Firebrand int-islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, center, talks to the media during an election campaign stop in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands Saturday Feb. 18, 2017. Now, as a March 15 parliamentary election looms, the political mood is turning inward as Wilders dominates polls with an isolationist manifesto that calls for the Netherlands "to be independent again. So out of the EU." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

  • Firebrand int-islam lawmaker Geert Wilders greets well-wishers during an election campaign stop in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands, Saturday Feb. 18, 2017. Now, as a March 15 parliamentary election looms, the political mood is turning inward as Wilders dominates polls with an isolationist manifesto that calls for the Netherlands "to be independent again. So out of the EU." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Firebrand int-islam lawmaker Geert Wilders greets well-wishers during an election campaign stop in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands, Saturday Feb. 18, 2017. Now, as a March 15 parliamentary election looms, the political mood is turning inward as Wilders dominates polls with an isolationist manifesto that calls for the Netherlands "to be independent again. So out of the EU." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

Anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders has kicked off his campaign for Dutch parliamentary elections amid tight security and intense media interest in a blue-collar town near Rotterdam.

Surrounded by police and trailed by a small group of protesters, Wilders on Saturday handed out fliers and posed for selfies with supporters at a market in Spijkenisse.

Wilders, whose party now has 12 lawmakers in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament, is riding high in polls, with most putting him narrowly ahead of the right-wing party of two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

However, it remains to be seen if Wilders could form a governing coalition if he wins the popular vote on March 15. Mainstream parties shun him because of his hard-line anti-Islam views and have ruled out working with him.