Wednesday 28 June 2017

PM claims his Dutch election victory stopped the 'wrong sort of populism'

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is applauded after casting his vote (AP/Patrick Post)
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is applauded after casting his vote (AP/Patrick Post)
People cast their ballots as they vote in the Dutch general election (AP/Peter Dejong)

Jubilant Mark Rutte said his election victory over anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders stopped the "wrong sort of populism" in its tracks.

Addressing an election night gathering of supporters in the Hague, he said "the Netherlands said 'Whoa! Stop!' to the wrong kind of populism" after Britain voted to leave the EU and the US elected Donald Trump as president.

Mr Rutte, who is now poised for a third term as prime minister, said: "We want to stick to the course we have - safe and stable and prosperous."

The Netherlands' main exit poll suggests Mr Rutte's centre-right party won 31 seats in the 150-place legislature, 12 more than Mr Wilders' party, which shared second place with two other parties.

While the outcome of the parliamentary election was pretty straightforward, forming a government will be much more complicated.

Since the left-leaning Labour Party of finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem suffered historic losses, the coalition it had with Mr Rutte's VVD party will probably collapse.

The prime minister is likely to look to the right instead for a new coalition partner, and he has been resolute about not wanting to rule with Mr Wilders.

The pro-EU centre party D66 and the Christian Democrat CDA both won 19 seats, and weeks, if not months of coalition-building talks may be required before Mr Rutte reaches the required 75-seat threshold and a new government is installed.

"I am so proud at what has happened and happy that we have been given the trust again" by voters, said Tamara van Ark, campaign leader of the VVD party.

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.

"Rutte has not seen the back of me!!" Mr Wilders said in a Twitter reaction.

Under brilliant skies, the Dutch went to vote in huge numbers, with turnout estimated to have reached 82%.

In a subplot of the elections, the Ipsos exit poll had the Green Left party registering a historic victory, turning it into the largest party on the left wing of Dutch politics for the first time.

The Greens leapt from four seats to 16 in parliament after a strong campaign by charismatic leader Jesse Klaver, who invites comparisons to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to the exit poll.

"This is a fantastic result for us, a historic victory," said Green Left chairwoman Marjolein Meijer.

The campaign's final days were overshadowed by a diplomatic crisis between the Dutch and Turkish governments.

It erupted over the refusal of the Netherlands to let two Turkish government ministers address rallies about a referendum next month that could give Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more powers.

AP

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