The Hague, March 15 (IANS) Millions of Dutch electors were expected to vote on Wednesday in parliamentary elections overshadowed by a blazing diplomatic row with Turkey, with all eyes on the fate of far-right MP Geert Wilders.
A total of 28 parties, and 1,114 candidates were in the race for the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Over 9,000 polling stations in the Netherlands opened their doors to the voters.
The Dutch elections could be seen as a barometer of populism for the high-stake forthcoming elections later this year in France and Germany, Efe news reported.
The race is dominated by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV), running on an anti-immigration platform.
Wilders cast his ballot and vowed to take the Netherlands out of the EU if he wins the election.
He said he would try to pull the Netherlands out because it had given too much money to foreign countries, according to the report.
“Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle and this patriotic revolution, whether today or tomorrow, will take place,” he said, adding that it was time to give the Netherlands back to the Dutch.
Wilders, who has campaigned heavily against Islam and immigration, said he intended to keep all of his electoral promises, which include the banning of the Quran and blocking entry to all refugees and migrants from Islamic countries.
Rutte said this vote was important after the results of the American elections and the Brexit referendum, which saw the United Kingdom vote to leave the EU.
“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,” he said.
Rutte has been praised for the way he has dealt with the diplomatic spat with Turkey, after the Netherlands banned Turkish referendum campaigners from holding events on its territory.
The election, considered by many to be an indicator of the current political climate in Europe, is to run until 9 p.m. local time (GMT), with the official results scheduled to be announced on March 21.
Coalition negotiations are expected to follow, as the 28 parties that share the 150 seats in Parliament decide how to organise power.
Wilder’s PVV is anticipated to win around 30 seats, which would leave it unable to lead even as part of a coalition, as most major parties have vowed to not cooperate with it.