April 30, 2017

Dutch polls a gauge of populist surge into Europe's core

16 March 2017, 12:46 | Clarence Schmidt

GETTYThe US Federal Reserve are also set to raise interest rates on the day of the election

Federal Reserve

The blonde populist came in joint second with Christian Democratic Appeal and the Democracy party D66, who also have 19 seats in the 150-seat house of representatives. The negotiations to form the coalition generally take several weeks. Wilders called his opponent the "prime minister of foreigners" and said he will prioritize Dutch citizens.

But if he comes first, it would be another big shock to the European Union after Britain voted to leave the bloc last year, and send a bad omen to mainstream parties fending off right-wing nationalists at elections in France and Germany later this year.

Rutte said the election is an opportunity for voters to "beat the wrong sort of populism" ahead of other elections in France and Germany later this year also featuring populist-nationalist candidates that threaten the state of the EU. It won 40 seats at the 2012 general election and the latest polls show that it could remain the biggest party in parliament, albeit with fewer seats. But Wilders, too, has little ground for optimism, given that three months ago polls predicted his party would get 37 seats.

Rutte is casting the election as a two-horse race between his VVD party and the Party for Freedom led by Wilders. The party has been heavily criticised for its support of stark austerity measures.

Henk Krol, of 50Plus, exclaimed, "We have doubled up!" in reference to his party adding two seats to its two existing seats in parliament. Historically very religious and socially conservative, the party has become more secular in recent years.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party has won the most seats in parliamentary elections, first exit polls say.

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Jesse Klaver, who heads the Greens, is the country's youngest party leader at 30 years old.

Millions of Dutch had flocked to the polls in a near record turnout, with stakes high in an election pitting Rutte against his far-right anti-Islam rival. "People said his tone was better, more convincing than Wilders", the presenters said on the basis of a survey of 9,000 viewers.

The far-right populism of Geert Wilders is apparently not as popular among the Dutch youth as it is for the country's adult population. During a fiery clash over integration and immigration, Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher dismissed Mr Wilders as "10,000 angry tweets and no solutions".

The question, analysts say, is whether the strong position of Rutte about Ankara and his refusal to allow Turkish ministers to make their campaign for the upcoming referendum in Turkey will help him win more votes.

The issues of immigration, integration and Dutch identity featured strongly, but did not completely dominate, the campaign.

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