Geert Wilders (C), the leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV), speaks to the media after casting his vote during the Dutch general election, on March 15, 2017 in The Hague, Netherlands.
As the nation went to the voting stations on a bright spring morning, two-term premier Rutte’s right-wing VVD party was leading in the latest polls, with the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders a close second.
The PVV anti-migrant party leader Geert Wilder had pledged to take the Netherlands out of the European Union, close the country’s borders, shut down mosques and ban the Quran, but the people of the Netherlands voted overwhelmingly for the values Europe stands for-for its freedom, its tolerance and its empathy.
With 55 per cent of votes counted, Rutte’s conservative VVD party was projected to win 32 of the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber’s 150 seats, down from 41 at the last vote in 2012.
Amid the rise of populist and far-right parties, the Dutch will be the first to cast ballots ahead of presidential votes in France in April and May, and legislative polls in Germany in September.
The biggest loss in an election campaign ever was strongly felt by Lodewijk Asscher, leader of the Labour party, which dropped 29 seats to just nine and, probably, a place out of government.
Mr Rutte dismissed Mr Wilders’s plan to close borders and mosques and to ban the Koran as “fake solutions”.
The prospect of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party gaining power in the Netherlands may have seen the country leave the European Union, euro, and increase restrictions on immigration – all which could have had an adverse effect on the market.
But polls in the past two weeks have suggested that Mr Wilders’ attempt to ride the wave of nationalist sentiment which prompted Britain’s Brexit vote and catapulted Mr Donald Trump to the White House may have lost momentum.
“The question is, do people really want more refugees here?” Both the ruling Liberals (VVD) and every other sizeable party have ruled out collaborating with the PVV.
“I think the rest of the world will then see that after Brexit, after the American elections, again the wrong sort of populism has won the day”, he said.
“It’s not the 30 seats I hoped for, but we have gained seats”, Wilders said. However, it would leave Rutte scrambling to cobble together a viable coalition which may have to include four or five parties to reach the 76-seat majority.
The Freedom Party candidate campaigned on an anti-EU, anti-Islam platform and said he was in favour of restoring Dutch values.
However, with the results of today’s Dutch election, he’s already being compared to Justin Trudeau. Observers warn that forming a coalition will probably take months and demand tough compromises.
It is highly unlikely that Wilders’ party will be part of any coalition, as all major parties have ruled out working with him.
In one particularly heated exchange, Deputy Prime MinisterLodewijk Asscher of the Labor party attempted to defend the rights of law-abiding Muslims who live in Holland.