THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – The latest on election day in the Netherlands (all times local):
Some Dutch voters are queuing up to cast their ballots on one of the newest pieces of their nation – a recently created island in a large lake north of Amsterdam.
Authorities have put a polling station on the Marker Wadden, an island created last year by Dutch land reclamation experts and intended to become a habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Nearby Lelystad municipality is offering free boat trips to the polls for voters in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections. Authorities said the voting voyages were so popular they were adding an extra boat to ferry people to and from the remote polling booth, a round trip of more than three hours.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says his country’s parliamentary elections can show the world that what he calls the “wrong sort of populism” can be stopped.
“It is the third elections after Brexit, after the American elections,” Rutte said Wednesday as he cast his vote at a school in The Hague. “We have the upcoming French and German elections. And this is a chance for a big democracy like the Netherlands to make a point – to stop this toppling over of the domino stones of the wrong sort of populism.”
Rutte and firebrand anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders have been in the media spotlight in the closing days of campaigning as many look to the Netherlands’ vote for a sign of the progress of populism ahead of elections elsewhere in Europe.
Keen to mobilize as many voters for his VVD party as possible, Rutte repeated a warning he has been making in recent days – that despite his party’s lead in most polls, the Netherlands could wake up Thursday morning and discover that “Geert Wilders is leading the biggest party.”
A website that assembles data from major pollsters in the Netherlands has published its final tally and it’s good news for Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The site Peilingwijzer has Rutte’s right-wing VVD party taking between 24 and 28 seats in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament.
Anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders’ far-right populist Party for Freedom is in second place with 19-23 seats, narrowly ahead of the Christian Democrats, which are forecast to pick up 19-21 seats. Wilders’ party has been losing ground in recent weeks.
The biggest loser looks like Rutte’s junior coalition partner since 2012, the Labor Party, which is projected to take 10-12 seats, well below the 38 seats the party won four years ago.
Election results will begin coming in after voting stations close at 9 p.m. (2000 GMT).
A closing debate featuring leaders of Dutch political parties was far and away the most popular show on television on the eve of the country’s election.
The Viewing Research Foundation, which publishes viewing figures, said that nearly 3.3 million people tuned into the debate Tuesday evening, the last major campaign event before voting got underway early Wednesday.
Second on the list was the 8 p.m. news by national broadcaster NOS, which preceded the debate, with 2.5 million viewers.
Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders says that whatever the result of Wednesday’s election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent will be here to stay.
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.”
He predicted the same feeling would show in elections later this year in France and Germany. He says: “Despite what the elite wants, politicians are getting strong who have a totally different concept of what the people want them to do.”
Polling booths have opened across the nation in Dutch parliamentary elections, a vote that is being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national elections in France and Germany later this year.
Two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s right-wing VVD party was leading in polls ahead of Wednesday’s vote, with the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders a close second.
Rutte has framed the vote as a choice between continuity and chaos, portraying himself as a safe custodian of this nation of 17 million’s economic recovery, while casting Wilders as a far-right radical who would not be prepared to take tough decisions were he to gain office.
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