Dutch voters go to the polls; early indications show poor performance for anti-Islam politician

Voters in the Netherlands headed to the polls Wednesday in a closely watched election that is being seen as a key barometer of the political mood in Europe and strength of the far right.The contest is the first of three crucial elections taking place in the...

Dutch voters go to the polls; early indications show poor performance for anti-Islam politician

Voters in the Netherlands headed to the polls Wednesday in a closely watched election that is being seen as a key barometer of the political mood in Europe and strength of the far right.The contest is the first of three crucial elections taking place in the...

15 mart 2017 Wednesday 18:40
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Dutch voters go to the polls; early indications show poor performance for anti-Islam politician

Voters in the Netherlands headed to the polls Wednesday in a closely watched election that is being seen as a key barometer of the political mood in Europe and strength of the far right.

The contest is the first of three crucial elections taking place in the continent this year — ahead of France in April and May and Germany in September.

It comes after the British referendum decision last June to leave the European Union, which encouraged those with nationalist and anti-immigration sentiments and has raised questions about the long-term viability of the 28-member bloc.

Previous Dutch elections have not attracted as much attention as this one, but many observers around the world have their eyes on the outcome to see if Europe will swing right, despite its fraught history fighting fascism.

After voting ended Wednesday, the country’s main exit poll suggested that anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders had an unexpectedly poor showing, the Associated Press reported.

The race has been bitter and divisive with immigration dominating the discourse.

Wilders, a passionate anti-Muslim politician who has called for the Netherlands’ mosques to be shuttered and borders to be closed to asylum seekers and immigrants from Islamic countries, surged in the polls in recent months but the popularity of his Freedom Party has waned in the past few weeks.

During the final televised debate of the campaign Tuesday evening, more than 3 million people tuned in to hear the main candidates thrash it out.

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

"The Netherlands belongs to all of us, and everyone who does his best," he said.

But Wilders retorted: "The Netherlands is not for everyone. The Netherlands is for the Dutch."

Wilders' main opponent is Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, who has been in power since 2010.

After casting his vote Wednesday, Rutte urged people to try to imagine the global reaction if the Freedom Party secured the largest percentage of votes.

“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.

Recent opinion polls suggested that about half of eligible voters were still undecided heading into the ballot booths Wednesday, but polls also showed that an ongoing diplomatic fight between Turkey and the Netherlands appeared to have given a last-minute boost to Rutte’s ratings.

The row with Turkey stemmed from the government’s decision to ban two Turkish ministers from speaking at rallies in Holland because of concerns regarding “risks to public order and security.”

The speeches were intended to encourage the large Turkish expatriate population to vote “yes” in the upcoming Turkish referendum, which could expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

The Dutch felt the proposed presentations were ill-timed given the heightened concerns about immigration and Islamic radicalization dominating much of the Dutch election rhetoric. But Erdogan accused the Netherlands of using “Nazi” tactics and blocked the Dutch ambassador from returning to the capital, Ankara.

Pollsters were notoriously inaccurate at predicting the outcome of the British referendum, known as Brexit, as well as the U.S. election, therefore no one is expected to claim victory until long after the polls have closed at 9 p.m. local time.

The Dutch political system also works on a system of proportional representation, which means the 150 parliamentary seats are allocated in exact proportion to the amount of votes each party wins. After the votes have been counted, protracted discussions will take place to form the next coalition government.

Even if Wilders' party performs well and wins the largest vote share, he has little chance of becoming prime minister, as many parties have said they would not enter into a partnership with him.

Despite this, Wilders sounded an ominous tone after voting Wednesday, saying that “the genie will not go back into the bottle.”

“This patriotic revolution, whether today or tomorrow, will take place," he said in the capital, The Hague.

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Trump’s 2005 tax forms show he paid $35 million on $150 million in income. House Republicans are split over the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Queen Mary is badly in need of repair: $289 million worth. Singing teapots and dancing furniture in live action? Sounds risky, but "Beauty and the Beast" is expected to be a big hit.

Trump’s 2005 tax forms show he paid $35 million on $150 million in income. House Republicans are split over the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Queen Mary is badly in need of repair: $289 million worth. Singing teapots and dancing furniture in live action? Sounds risky, but "Beauty and the Beast" is expected to be a big hit.

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Goodyear's Southern California-based blimp, the Spirit of Innovation, is decommissioned in the early morning hours of March 14. The Spirit of Innovation, the last blimp in the company's fleet, is being retired to make way for Wingfoot Two, a semi-rigid dirigible.

Goodyear's Southern California-based blimp, the Spirit of Innovation, is decommissioned in the early morning hours of March 14. The Spirit of Innovation, the last blimp in the company's fleet, is being retired to make way for Wingfoot Two, a semi-rigid dirigible.

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Our resident Curiosity Correspondent, Benjamin Crutcher, takes a ride on the Goodyear Blimp before it is retired and replaced with a newer model.

Our resident Curiosity Correspondent, Benjamin Crutcher, takes a ride on the Goodyear Blimp before it is retired and replaced with a newer model.

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Boyle is a special correspondent.

UPDATES:

1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with early indications from an exit poll.

This article was originally published at 9:25 a.m.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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