VICTORIOUS Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says his win over anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders has stopped the "wrong sort of populism” in its tracks.
Addressing an election night gathering of supporters in The Hague, Rutte said "The Netherlands said 'Whoa! Stop!' to the wrong kind of populism” after Britain voted to leave the European Union and the United States elected Donald Trump as president.
Rutte, who is now poised for a third term as prime minister, said: "We want to stick to the course we have - safe and stable and prosperous.”
The outcome of the parliamentary election in the Netherlands was pretty straightforward, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte standing tall above everyone.
Forming a government will be much more complicated.
EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker hailed the result as a "vote against extremists”
"@JunckerEU just spoke with @markrutte, congratulated him on clear victory: 'A vote for Europe, a vote against extremists',” Juncker's spokesman Margaritis Schinas tweeted.
Exit polls showing Rutte's Liberal VVD far ahead of Wilders and his Freedom Party were greeted with relief in Brussels amid fears of a surge in populism in Europe, with elections in France and Germany still to come in 2017.
"Common sense strikes back,” one senior European source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The double shock of Britain's Brexit vote and the election of US President Donald Trump "makes the EU an anchor of stability and reason in a world of craziness,” the source added.
European Parliament spokesman Jaume Dutch meanwhile tweeted "2016 is not 2017” after the Dutch exit poll came through.
Since the left-leaning Labor Party of Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem suffered historic losses, the coalition Labor had with Rutte's VVD party will probably collapse.
The prime minister is likely to look to the right instead for a new coalition partner.
The main exit poll showed Rutte controlling 31 seats, and three parties each winning with 19 - the pro-EU centre party D66, the Christian Democrat CDA and the Party for Freedom of anti-Islam nationalist Geert Wilders.
Rutte has been resolute about not wanting to rule with Wilders, so that tightens the market in which he can acquire the necessary 75-seat threshold. Weeks, if not months of coalition-building talks may be required before a new government is installed.
He may have to contend with a new player from an unexpected direction, however.
Exit polls show Jesse Klaver has led his Green Left party to a historic result, turning it into the largest party on the left wing of Dutch politics for the first time.
According to the Ipsos exit poll, the Greens leapt from four seats to 16 in parliament after a strong campaign by the charismatic Klaver, who invites comparisons to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"This is a fantastic result for us, a historic victory,” Green Left chairwoman Marjolein Meijer said.
She says the result shows there is "very fertile ground in the Netherlands for change and a positive and hopeful story.” Meijer said: "For us this is just the beginning.” It remains to be seen if the 30-year-old Klaver will take his party into the next ruling coalition, which looks likely to be dominated by Prime Minister Mark Rutte's VVD and other right-leaning parties.
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