Published: Thu, March 16, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Elections in the Netherlands: Explainer

Elections in the Netherlands: Explainer

Mr Wilders will also have to contend with a re-awakening of the anti-Populist left embodied in the figure of Jesse Klaver, a dynamic 30-year-old of Moroccan, Dutch and Indonesian descent whose progressive GreenLeft party has also done well in the polls.

"This is a crucial election for The Netherlands", said Rutte, the leader of the Liberal VVD party, as he voted.

Wilders has pledged to close the borders to Muslim immigrants, shut mosques, ban sales of the Koran and leave the EU.

The issue and debate around foreigners in the Netherlands has heightened in recent days following the diplomatic row and weekend rioting over the barring of the Turkish family minister from entering the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam.

In one particularly heated exchange, Deputy Prime MinisterLodewijk Asscher of the Labor party attempted to defend the rights of law-abiding Muslims who live in Holland.

While one opinion poll indicated that Wilder's comments regarding the Turkish protesters would help him win Wednesday's election, other polls suggested Rutte's hard lined stance on the political rallies in the first place would give him a boost in the polls, BBC News reported Wednesday.

Wilders, a member of the Party for Freedom, argued during his campaign that Islam poses a threat to the people of the Netherlands.

Even if Wilders fails to become prime minister, his candidacy has influenced the tone of the political debate in the Netherlands, with moderate parties adopting elements from the Party of Freedom's agenda.

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A record 28 parties are competing for the 150 seats in the lower house of Dutch parliament, known as the Tweede Kamer.

Most attention is on the Freedom Party, which most other parties have said they would refuse to join in a coalition.

Snapping at the heels of Wilders are long-standing Dutch parties such as the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), credited with 19 to 21 seats, and the Democracy Party (D66) with around 17 to 19 MPs, polls showed.

The two parties in the center also have far more in common with Rutte than they do with the Socialists. Turnout during the last election, when there were 21 parties running, was 74.6 percent of registered voters (which is nearly all citizens of voting age in the Netherlands).

After casting his ballot in the Hague, Wilder said: "Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle".

The Netherlands parliament is chosen by a party-list proportional representation system that results in unwieldy coalition governments.

Pundits predicted that Rutte's party would win 24 to Wilders 22 seats, both well below the 76 needed to form a majority.

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