Dutch PM beats back far-right challenge: Exit polls

Dutch PM beats back far-right challenge: Exit polls

Dutch PM beats back far-right challenge: Exit polls

Turnout was 81 percent, higher than the 74.6 percent at the last parliamentary election five years ago. Mr Wilders, who has said that he would bar immigrants to the Netherlands from Muslim countries, says that he has already won the election because "everyone is moving towards us" on policy.

Wilders has form when it comes to coalitions dating back to elections in 2010 that produced a minority government led by Mr Rutte and including the Christian Democratic Appeal party.

As you can see, there are a bewildering number of parties in the Netherlands.

Many voters in the Netherlands have been anxious about these Association Agreements, but so far the Dutch government of Mr Rutte has gone along with them at EU level, so they do apply to whole EU Schengen area including the Netherlands. "Remember the USA elections", Rutte said.

Even if Wilders fails to become prime minister, his candidacy has influenced the tone of the political debate in the Netherlands, with moderate parties adopting elements from the Party of Freedom's agenda.

"The Netherlands belongs to all of us, and everyone who does his best", he said.

The contest pits Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte against his anti-Islam challenger, Mr Geert Wilders, who led for much of the campaign on a platform of pulling the Netherlands out of the European Union and halting immigration.

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Exit polls suggest the Green-Left party performed strongly, winning a total of 16 seats, while the Socialist Party took 14 and the Labour Party took nine.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch alt-right Party for Freedom, and the closest challenger to topple two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte, says the face of European politics is changed forever.

Despite the popularity of Mr Wilders and his views, election observers give Party for Freedom only a slim chance of gaining power in a voting system that all but guarantees coalition governments.

Amid the tussle between Rutte and Wilders, numerous 12.9 million eligible voters had been wavering between the record 28 parties running.

The elections were on the heels of Rutte's decision to ban two Turkish ministers from addressing Turks at a political rally Saturday in the eastern city of Rotterdam, resulting in wide-scale demonstrations outside the Turkish consulate there.

The far-right Marine Le Pen is set to make the second-round run-off of France's presidential election in May, while in September's federal election in Germany, the right-wing, eurosceptic Alternative for Germany is likely to enter the national parliament for the first time.

Pollsters were notoriously inaccurate at predicting the outcome of the British referendum, known as Brexit, as well as the USA election, therefore no one is expected to claim victory until long after the polls have closed at 9 p.m. local time.

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