Dutch PM slaps down far-right challenge
REUTERS photoDutch political parties were preparing on March 16 to start what will likely be a long process of coalition talks after Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s right-wing VVD easily won national elections, defying polls that suggested a close race with anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders.
With most votes counted for the 150-seat legislature, Rutte’s VVD had 33 seats, eight fewer than in 2012. The far-right populist Party for Freedom of Wilders was second with 20 seats, five more than the last time but still a stinging setback after polls in recent months had suggested his party could become the largest in Dutch politics.
Support for the two most pro-EU parties, the progressive D66 and GreenLeft, was way up. The Christian Democrats and centrist D66 parties - likely future coalition partners for Rutte - won 19 seats each.
Rutte warned that debates could take a while. “We have had a tough campaign, with reproaches back and forth,” he said. “We need time for everybody to get back into the mood for cooperation, and that doesn’t happen in a few hours.”