Dutch head to polls to vote on prime minister

Activists celebrate the results of the Dutch elections. Pic  AFP

Geert Wilders is the frontman of Dutch populism and, although he is polling very high, the Netherlands' proportional representation and multi-party parliamentary system will make it tough for him to take power.

Against the backdrop of such a political landscape, it is clear now that the process of putting together a ruling coalition will be complex and will take a lot of time.

In a final debate on Tuesday, Rutte proudly stood behind his decision over the weekend to expel one Turkish government minister and prevent the entry of another over concerns that their presence would "incite" both the Islamophobic supporters of Wilders as well as the local Dutch-Turkish population.

The elections in the Netherlands come ahead of polls in France and Germany over the next half year, when right-wing nationalists will also be key players.

In September, right-wing, euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany is likely to win seats for the first time in the German federal parliament.

The turnout is forecast at 81 percent against 74.6 percent in the last election in 2012, according to NOS.

Current polls suggest that incumbent Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is ahead in the polls, indicating that voters may seek to retain the status quo with regards to economic policies.

Rutte is casting the election as a two-horse race between his VVD party and the Party for Freedom led by Wilders. This trend has reversed over the last few weeks, however.


However more than two dozen parties are running in the election. While VVD's position has not changed since previous Peil survey published on March 5, PVV has lost three potential seats and a claim to leadership.

"We had hard years and we are very happy to remain the biggest party".

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

Bunched behind the VVD are a range of parties --from the left to the far right - that are battling for second place - or even a surprise first place.

Rutte's attack centred on Wilders' prolific tweeting, which has caused huge controversy in the run-up to the election.

Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders says that whatever the result of Wednesday's election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent will be here to stay.

The last days of campaigning were overshadowed by an escalating diplomatic dispute with Turkey, after the government banned several Turkish ministers from attending rallies linked to a controversial referendum in Turkey.

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

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