Dutch PM's party leads elections: Exit polls

Miranda GreerMar 30, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed a "very pro-European result, a clear signal... and a good day for democracy" and her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted: "The Netherlands, oh the Netherlands you are a champion!" Now it is for Marine Le Pen of the National Front to carry the torch in presidential elections starting next month.

Mr Wilders had insisted that whatever the result of Wednesday's election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent are not going away. Mark Rutte, who has been prime minister since 2010, is the likeliest candidate to form the country's next government.

"You look at the social democrats and the fascist Wilders, there is no difference, they have the same mentality", Cavusoglu said, quoted by state-run news agency Anadolu, referring to the ruling Liberal VVD party which won the most seats against Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV).

Rutte is now virtually guaranteed a third term, leading a government that can be expected to continue tightening immigration policy in the Netherlands, already among the strictest in the EU. "Rutte has not seen the back of me!" he said. He added that he wanted to participate in coalition talks, even though mainstream parties have ruled out working with him. Rutte's party responded to rising populism in the Netherlands by toughening its stance on immigration.

Now we are the 2nd largest party.

Populist Geert Wilders was defeated at the polls, although his party will have the second largest contingent in the parliament. These parliamentary elections were being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national votes in France and Germany later this year.

"On top of that, Turkish President (Tayyip) Erdogan gave (Rutte) a handsome gift".

With Turkey locked in an explosive crisis with the European Union that erupted in the run-up to the polls, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu predicted that "religious wars" will start in Europe. Wilders' loss reinvigorated hopes that those parties would likewise fail.

"But, on the other hand, I think it should be seen from the perspective of the Dutch electoral system, which is one in which there is very proportional representation, and so a run-off between two candidates would not have happened anyway".

The poor showing by firebrand Geert Wilders in the Netherlands election has energized traditional parties across Europe from left and right.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault both rushed early Thursday to offer their congratulations to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who held onto office even though he lost almost a fifth of his seats in parliament.

Rutte's victory is proof of the fact that the far right's surge is neither inevitable nor unstoppable. Many Dutch parties have said they won't work with Wilders' Party of Freedom. "The real bellwether election will be Marine Le Pen's quest for the French presidency, starting April 23 - that is where the populist action is and that is what we should be focusing upon".

The big victor of the elections, however, was neither Rutte nor Wilders. It suffered its worst ever result, winning just nine seats, down from 38 last time and crashing from second to seventh place.

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