Dutch Center-right party leader hailed the election win
Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday hailed his center-right party’s election win, saying the results prove the Dutch have said no to the “wrong kind of populism”.
With nearly 95 percent of votes counted, Rutte appeared set for a third term as his People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) emerged with the largest share of votes, winning 33 out of 150 parliamentary seats, down from 41 in the 2012 election.
Thirteen parties had run in the election.
The result was a disappointment for Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), which had been ahead in the opinion polls in the weeks leading up to the vote but saw its lead evaporate to emerge with 20 seats.
Addressing a crowd in The Hague late Wednesday, Rutte said: “We say no to the wrong kind of populism.”
He hailed his party’s win as a celebration of democracy.
“The Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said ‘Whoa’ to the wrong kind of populism,” Rutte said.
“Today was a celebration of democracy, we saw rows of people queuing to cast their vote, all over the Netherlands -- how long has it been since we’ve seen that?”
The turnout on Wednesday was more than 80 percent, the highest for 30 years. Many analysts said the high numbers could have helped pro-EU and liberal parties.
Wilders’ PVV had 15 seats in the previous parliament and he was defiant on social media following the result. “We were the 3rd largest party of the Netherlands. Now we are the 2nd largest party. Next time we will be number 1!” he tweeted.
“Thank you PVV Voters! We won seats!” Wilders said in another post. “The first victory is in! And Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!!”
The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the pro-EU center Democrats party (D66) each took 19 seats in the parliament. The GreenLeft party increased its representation to 14 seats, a rise of 10.
Rutte’s coalition partner, the Labor Party, was dubbed “the biggest loser” of the night. Lodewijk Asscher’s left-leaning party suffered a historic defeat, seeing a slump to nine from 38 seats. According to the Dutch media, it was the biggest drop in vote for any party in the country’s electoral history.
The DENK (Think) Party -- formed by ethnic Turkish lawmakers Tunahan Kuzu and Selcuk Ozturk in 2015 after their expulsion from the Labor Party -- won three seats in its first election.
“As [people] of foreign origin, we gained this success together,” Kuzu said. “Your votes serve as the best answer to rising racism and Islamophobia in the Netherlands. The Netherlands belongs to us all.”
The election will pave the way for weeks of negotiating to form a coalition government.
The current government is formed of Rutte’s VVD, which had 40 seats and Labor. With Labor’s losses, Rutte will likely to look to the right -- to the CDA and D66 -- for a new coalition partner.
Due to the distribution of votes, the coalition will need to consist of at least four parties to get the necessary 75-seat threshold for a government.
Some fear this could mean the PVV having an influence on future negotiations.
During the election campaign, Rutte had made it clear he would not form a coalition with Wilders, who has pledged to take the Netherlands out of the EU, close all mosques and ban the Quran.
“The chance is not 0.1 percent but zero,” Rutte told a local TV channel in January.
The premier’s party is expected to negotiate with the GreenLeft, Labor and the Christian Union, which took five seats.
If Rutte fails, a coalition among the other parties is conceivable but no party favors a coalition with Wilders, according to the Dutch media.
Weeks or even months of coalition-building talks may be required before a new government is installed. In 1977, it took 208 days of negotiations to form a new government. In 2012, the government was formed after 49 days.
The official results are due to be announced on Tuesday.