Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Liberals were the big winners in Wednesday’s election, as populist Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party finished below expectations.
Exit polls put the Liberals in first place with 31 of the 150 seats. The Freedom Party was tied for second with two other parties at 19 seats each. The voter turnout of 81 percent was a significant increase from 74.6 in 2012.
The Netherlands has proportional representation in parliament and 11 parties will likely receive mandates, according to exit polls.
Wilders and Rutte were tied in polls leading up to the election. Rutte’s response to a diplomatic crisis with Turkey over the weekend appears to have given him a boost on election day.
“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 said after voting Wednesday.
PVV ran on a platform centered around reversing “Islamization” of the Netherlands and taking the country out of the European Union. Wilders thanked PVV voters in a tweet, while celebrating the party’s gains from the last election.
“We have won seats! That’s the first victory! I’m not done with Rutte yet!” Wilders tweeted.
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