Dutch election: PM Rutte claims victory, far right loses ground

Photo: AP

Dutch PM Mark Rutte claimed an “overwhelming” victory in elections on Wednesday, vowing to use his fourth term in office to rebuild the country after the coronavirus pandemic, AFP reported.

After the socially distanced three-day vote, the exit polls showed Rutte’s liberal VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) gaining three seats in 150 seats parliament to win 36 in total, up from the 33 it won four years ago.

Victory will confirm Rutte as one of the EU’s longest-serving leaders after Germany’s Angela Merkel and Hungary’s Viktor Orban—even if his hawkish stance on spending has seen other EU chiefs dub him “Mr No”.

Bleached blonde far-right leader Wilders looked set to lose his PVV’s (Freedom Party) status as the second-biggest party, with exit polls predicting he would win 17 seats, down three.

Congratulating Rutte despite a campaign in which he called him a “traitor”, Wilders said he had “hoped for a little more.” but that “we are still the third party in the Netherlands.”

The main surprise was the strong showing of D66, led by Dutch foreign trade minister Sigrid Kaag, predicted to increase its parliamentary share by eight to 27 seats.

It overtook its fellow coalition partner the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), led by hawkish finance minister Wopke Hoekstra, now set to be in fourth place with 14 seats, down five. Kaag, who tweeted a picture of herself dancing on a table in celebration said the result was “confirmation that we are the only progressive party to have had influence in recent years.”

One other key gainer was the stridently pro-EU Volt party, winning its first ever three seats.

Traditional left wing parties had a bad night, losing seats overall.

Meanwhile, Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy, criticised for his anti-vaccine comments and for being the only leader to hold rallies despite the pandemic, was set to win eight seats, up from two.

Rutte earlier ruled out a coalition with Wilders “because of what he said about Islam and the Koran”, or with Baudet because of what he “has done in terms of anti-Semitism and racism”.

Rutte said the results meant he would talk with D66 and likely to the CDA.

The Dutch parliament is now set to have 17 parties in parliament, two more than the current number, and a sign that coalition talks could be as difficult as in 2017 when they took seven months.

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