Dutch elections: Political leaders cast votes

What can Dutch elections tell us about Europe? .

While that would be a 10-seat loss from the last election in 2012, the Ipsos poll, published immediately following the end of voting Wednesday, indicated that VVD held a significant advantage over the Party for Freedom (PVV) of far-right populist Geert Wilders.

Security guards look on as firebrand anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, center, prepares to cast his vote for the Dutch general election in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, March 15, 2017.

Rutte last week called upon voters to "stop the domino-effect" of populism.

None of the party representatives made a critical faux-pas or scored points that should alter campaign dynamics established over months.

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. Rutte said: "There will not be a Quran police".

Right-wing nationalists have also gained ground in France and Germany, where new leaders will be elected later this year. "You are not the prime minister of the Netherlands, but of the foreigners".

Indeed while Rutte has presented himself as an opponent of Wilders' brand of Islamophobia, Wilder's rhetoric has pushed Rutte's People's Party even further to the right, with Rutte taking out full page ads during the election demanding that immigrants "act normal or get out". The choice, Rutte says, is simple: Chaos or continuity.

Wilders had pledged to close the borders to Muslim immigrants, shut mosques, ban sales of the Koran and leave the European Union, if he was elected the largest party in the parliament.

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The two frontrunners squared off in a heated debate Monday night.

"The Netherlands does not belong to all of us", he proclaimed.

Wilders, meanwhile, tapped into discontent among voters who say they are not benefiting from economic recovery.

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

"I think they're exactly the same people".

The Netherlands' main exit poll suggests Mr Rutte's party won 31 seats in the 150-place legislature, 12 more than Mr Wilders' party, which shared second place with two other parties.

"Wilders will play no role in the formation of a government", said Amsterdam Free University political analyst Andre Krouwel. Twenty-eight parties ran and 13 appear to have crossed the.67 percent threshold needed for at least one seat.

Wilders has little chance of forming a government, since other parties have ruled out a coalition with a party they view as racist.

  • Sonia Alvarado