Dutch PM Rutte comes first in election but loses seats

Dutch PM Rutte comes first in election but loses seats

Dutch PM Rutte comes first in election but loses seats

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.

Polling booths have opened across the nation in Dutch parliamentary elections, a vote that is being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national elections in France and Germany later this year.

The PVV was never likely to control or even be included in the government, as most of the other parties have vowed not to partner with it, but having the most seats in parliament would have given it an enormously powerful platform and sent a message about popular support for Wilders's ideas.

"Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle. And this patriotic revolution, whether today or tomorrow, will stay", Wilders said, voting earlier.

The VVD is the party of the ruling Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

"When people look for leadership, they look to me", Rutte said at a final debate late Tuesday.

Wednesday's vote also comes on the cusp of mounting tensions between the Netherlands and Turkey, largely fuelled by growing anti-Muslim sentiments among Dutch society. Mr Wilders, who has said that he would bar immigrants to the Netherlands from Muslim countries, says that he has already won the election because "everyone is moving towards us" on policy.

"I want the Netherlands to be the first country which stops this trend of the wrong sort of populism", Rutte said at a news conference.

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Voter participation in the general election was high - and experts say the final turnout may exceed 80%.

An eventual turnout of around 80 percent was predicted, eight percent lower than the current record of 88 percent achieved in 1977.

Leader Sybrand Buma has moved the traditionally center-right Christian Democrats to the right to counter Wilders, while the pro-European Union liberal democrats D66 are also on track to win more seats.

"This is a crucial election for The Netherlands", Rutte said as he voted.

Mr Rutte dismissed Mr Wilders' plan to close borders and mosques and to ban the Koran as "fake solutions". Reports came out that a polling station within a Turkish Islamic cultural centre in Amsterdam had hung up Turkish flags and was broadcasting Turkish radio as members of the public went to cast their vote.

For Wilders, the poll was a test whether his fiery nationalist rhetoric caught the imagination of the population. In response, Mr Wilders criticised Mr Asscher's record as part of a grand coalition with the VVD, stating: "You let half the world in".

This Agreement includes the free movement of people from Turkey to EU Schengen countries which include the Netherlands.

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