Dutch head to polls to vote on prime minister

Voters in the Netherlands went to the polls Wednesday to vote in an election that could indicate a more general shift toward populism in Europe.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders is seen on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena on Day 2 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 19. Wilders and his Freedom Party present a strong opposition to current Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Party for Freedom and Democracy in the country's elections on Wednesday. File Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo
Dutch politician Geert Wilders is seen on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena on Day 2 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 19. Wilders and his Freedom Party present a strong opposition to current Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Party for Freedom and Democracy in the country’s elections on Wednesday. File Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo

Current Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Party for Freedom and Democracy face the strongest opposition from the Freedom Party, and Geert Wilders and his anti-immigration and anti-Islam platform.

Rutte’s party leads the latest Peilingwijzer poll of polls, provided by Leiden University, but Wilders and his party are in a close second above the other 26 parties on the ballot.

 

The large amount of parties and the Netherland’s system of proportional representation indicates some form of coalition government will likely occur, possibly with Rutte’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and three other parties.

Wilders, who pledged to have the Netherlands leave the European Union, close all mosques and ban the Koran, said his “revolution” will take place eventually whether he is voted into office or not.

“Whatever the outcome of the elections today, the genie will not go back into the bottle and this patriotic revolution — whether today or tomorrow — will take place,” he said.

His Freedom Party previously led opinion polls, but recent results suggested his support has begun to decline.

Rutte said the election is an opportunity for voters to “beat the wrong sort of populism” ahead of other elections in France and Germany later this year also featuring populist-nationalist candidates that threaten the state of the EU.

“I think the rest of the world will then see that after Brexit, after the American elections, again the wrong sort of populism has won the day,” he said in response to the idea of Wilders winning the election.

During debates, Wilders accused Rutte of providing immigrants with better healthcare than the Dutch, while Rutte said Wilders’ ideas to close borders and mosques and to ban the Koran are “fake solutions.”

The elections also comes amid increased tension with Turkey as the country suspended high-level political talks with the Netherlands and banned the Dutch ambassador from returning to Ankara after the Dutch government prevented Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s flight from landing in Rotterdam for a referendum rally.

By Daniel Uria