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Exit poll gives Dutch PM Rutte big lead over far-right Wilders


The Netherlands' center-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte roundly saw off a challenge by anti-Islam, anti-EU Geert Wilders in an election on Wednesday, exit polls said, a huge relief to other EU governments facing a wave of nationalism, APA reports quoting Reuters.

 

Rutte's VVD Party was projected to win 31 of parliament's 150 seats, down from 41 at the last vote in 2012, but ahead of Wilders who tied in second place with two other parties at 19 each, according to the polls by national broadcaster NOS based on interviews with voters.

 

At 81 percent, turnout was the highest in 30 years in an election that was a test of whether the Dutch wanted to end decades of liberalism and choose a nationalist, nativist path by voting for Wilders and his promise to "de-Islamicise" the Netherlands and quit the European Union.

 

In the city of Nijmegen, polling stations had to order extra ballot papers and extend opening times to give people enough time to vote.

 

The result was a relief to mainstream parties across Europe, particularly in France and Germany, where right-wing nationalists hope to make a big impact in elections this year, potentially posing an existential threat to the EU.

 

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is set to make France's presidential election run-off in May, while euroskeptic, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany is likely to enter the German federal parliament for the first time in a September election.

 

"The Dutch have rejected the anti-European populist. Good for that. We need you for a strong Europe in 2017," the German foreign ministry tweeted, showing relief that Britain's vote to quit the EU had not been followed by a shock from the Dutch.

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, could not restrain his joy, tweeting: "The Netherlands, oh the Netherlands you are a champion!..... Congratulations on this great result."

 

The exit polls helped the euro rise to its highest against the dollar since Feb. 7.

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