Elections in the Netherlands: Explainer

Dutch election exposes fragility of mainstream

"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 Mr Rutte's centre-right VVD party.

Amid unprecedented worldwide attention, the Dutch go to the polls Wednesday in a parliamentary election that is seen as a bellwether for the future of populism in a year of crucial votes in Europe. Rutte said: "There will not be a Quran police".

He acknowledged that the country's elections were being closely watched amid concerns about the rise of far-right and populist parties in Europe with other national elections due later in the year.

Although Mr Rutte is ahead in the exit polls, the prime minister will not be celebrating a victory as early indicators show he lost a quarter of the vote.

The VVD leads the latest Peilingwijzer poll of polls by Leiden University, on 17% - which could equate to about 24-28 seats - while Wilders' party is close behind on 14%, about 12-23.

Geert Wilders, a passionate anti-Muslim politician who has called for the Netherlands' mosques to be shuttered and borders to be closed to asylum seekers and immigrants from Islamic countries, surged in the polls in recent months but the popularity of his Freedom Party has waned in the past few weeks.

With two days to go until the Dutch vote in a pivotal parliamentary election, pollster Maurice De Hond found that the spat between the Netherlands and Turkey, and Saturday's night of rioting by ethnic Turks in Rotterdam, had benefited the two parties that have been most skeptical on immigration.

"The Netherlands does not belong to all of us", he proclaimed.

Wilders supporter Robert Housmans says, "The ideas that Mr".




Up to 13 million Dutch people took to the polls today to have their say in the momentous Dutch election 2017. You know what it will cost.don't do it. So enormous, in fact, that people can't stop sharing photos of them.

Rutte's Liberal VVD would scoop up 31 seats in the new parliament making it the largest party, with Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) sharing second place on 19 seats with two other parties, the public broadcaster NOS said.

"Wilders will play no role in the formation of a government", said Amsterdam Free University political analyst Andre Krouwel.

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

Even if Mr Wilders wins the most seats, he is unlikely to form a government as none of the main stream parties will cooperate with him.

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

Rutte's handling of the crisis with Ankara - barring one Turkish minister from flying into the country, and expelling another - appears to have boosted his image. It would be the best election result for the Greens to date. "The chance he will be chosen tomorrow is much bigger than it was last week".

Most polling stations were to open Wednesday at 0630 GMT, and close at 2000 GMT with exit polls expected shortly after. This took over four months to after the 2010 election and seven months in 1977.

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