Turkey row has little impact on Dutch rivals' ratings

Mar 16, 2017, 00:41
Turkey row has little impact on Dutch rivals' ratings

Amid unprecedented global 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.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appeared to have defeated a strong challenge by his far-right rival Geert Wilders in Wednesday's (Mar 15) key election, exit polls predicted.

Incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte's center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy party was leading in opinion polls ahead of the vote.

Some polls had put the Party for Freedom neck-and-neck with the centre-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

Whichever party can secure the majority 76 seats in parliament, either on its own or through a coalition, will form the new Dutch government and choose the Prime Minister.

Mr Rutte's last government - after his party finished top in elections in 2012 - was a two-party coalition with the Labour Party after the VVD took 40 seats. Voting takes place against the background of a vocal row between Holland and Turkey.

President Recip Tayyip Erdogan's dispatch of Turkish ministers to Western Europe to campaign for a referendum that will give him more power have the potential to upturn a Dutch campaign that was already dominated by questions of identity.

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

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Mr Rutte is promising business-as-usual while Mr Wilders' promises a range of actions from banning the Quran (Koran) and closing all mosques to pulling the Netherlands out of the European Union and closing the borders to refugees.

electionsFrom 7.30 a.m. until 9 p.m. local time the polling stations open their doors for all Dutch citizens of 18 years and older. The Freedom Party slipped in the last round of polls before today's vote - but we'll note that polls in both Britain and the USA proved unreliable in the face of strong voter sentiment.

Currently, the coalition consists of Rutte's VVD and the PvdA, a social democratic party that is projected to lose a significant amount of seats in the parliament.

Mr Wilders also sought to dampen expectations, but insisted that whatever the result of Wednesday's election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent are not going away.

Mr Wilders described protesters who rioted outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam at the weekend as "scum".

It will be interesting to see tomorrow if the idea of acting in this manner serves to reassure those otherwise thinking of voting for Mr Wilders and the PVV, or whether it simply highlights Mr Wilders agenda in a way which helps him.

Seven of the 28 parties running could win more than 10 seats in the 150-seat parliament, the polls suggest.