Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, was easily defeated by Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, partial vote counts show.
The Hague, Netherlands, 17 Jumadil Akhir 1438/16 March 2017 (MINA) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday claimed a dominating parliamentary election victory over anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, who failed the year’s first litmus test for populism in Europe, cbsnews.com reported.
Provisional results with over half the votes counted suggested Rutte’s party won 32 seats in the 150-member legislature, 13 more than Wilders’ party, which took only third place with 19 seats. The surging CDA Christian Democrats claimed 20.
Following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president, “the Netherlands said, ‘Whoa!’ to the wrong kind of populism,” said Rutte, who is now poised for a third term as prime minister.
“We want to stick to the course we have — safe and stable and prosperous,” Rutte added.
Wilders, who campaigned on radical pledges to close borders to migrants from Muslim nations, close mosques, ban the Quran and take the Netherlands out of the EU, had insisted that whatever the result of the election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent aren’t going away.
“Rutte has not seen the back of me,” Wilders said after the results had sunk in.
His Party for Freedom clinched 24 seats in 2010 before sinking to 15 in 2012, and Wednesday’s total left him with about 12 percent of the electorate, far less than populists in Britain and the United States have scored.
“Those are not the 30 seats we hoped for,” Wilders told reporters early Thursday, adding that he’d “rather have been the biggest party.”
Both France and Germany have elections this year in which far-right candidates and parties are hoping to make an impact.
French President Francois Hollande congratulated Rutte on his election success and his “clear victory against extremism.”
In Germany, Socialist leader Martin Schulz tweeted. “I am relieved, but we need to continue to fight for an open and Free Europe.”
Rutten shows statesmanship by refusing foreign pressure
Rutte, who for much of the campaign appeared to be racing to keep pace with Wilders, may have profited from the hard line he drew in a diplomatic standoff with Turkey over the past week.
The fight erupted over the Netherlands’ refusal to let two Turkish government ministers address rallies in Rotterdam about a referendum that could give Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more powers.
It gave Rutte an opportunity to show his statesmanship by refusing to bow to foreign pressure, a stance with widespread backing in the nation.
“I mean, this is your electoral campaign dream, right? You can’t script this if it was a movie,” Amsterdam Free University political scientist Andre Krouwel said. “It’s really helped Mark Rutte to take the lead and a big lead over Geert Wilders.”
Under brilliant skies, the Dutch went to vote in huge numbers, with turnout estimated to have reached at 82 percent. (T/RS5/RS1)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)