Far-right Dutch party drops polls hopeful for praising revisionist

The Hague (AFP) –


Far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders Friday withdrew a leading candidate for his Freedom Party (PVV) in next year's local elections after he praised British historian David Irving, who was briefly jailed for denying the Holocaust.

Geza Hegedus, who headed the PVV's list for seats in the Rotterdam council, wished Irving a happy birthday on his Facebook page earlier this year and hoped he would have "many more productive years", the AD Dutch daily said.

"You really have my respect," Hegedus added in his post to the controversial historian who was jailed in Austria in 2006 for minimising the slaughter of millions of Jews during World War II.

Irving, the author of "Hitler's War", a book which attempts to minimise both Nazi atrocities and Hitler's responsibility for them, has rejected the label of "Holocaust denier".

But Wilders, a staunch supporter of Israel, said he "greatly regretted" Hegedus's actions.

"If we had known about that, Mr Hegedus would not have been put on the list," Wilders said in a statement, just one day after Hegedus had been officially put forward as the PVV's candidate for a seat on the council of Europe's biggest port.

The party, which will unveil its new candidate next week, said "new information" about Hegedus had come to light which was "unacceptable" and did "not fit with the PVV's policies."

"The person concerned has been withdrawn from the list," it added in a statement.

The PVV, which now holds 20 seats in the Dutch lower house making it the largest opposition party, is hoping to make a strong showing in the March 21 local elections, with plans to strengthen its presence across the country.

Wilders boosted his anti-Islam party's place in parliament in this year's general elections to come in second, but predictions that he could top the polls failed to materialise.