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Leader of the Populist and anti-immigrant Durch party Geert Wilders acknowledged defeat and promised strong opposition in the Netherlands. EPA/ROBIN UTRECHT

Dutch Elections: "We Rejected Populism"

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has seen off a challenge from the anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders to claim a resounding victory in parliamentary…

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Dutch people rejected "the wrong kind of populism", Prime Minister Mark Rutte said yesterday, after knowing the results of a presidential election that has put Europeans in alert.

Mr. Rutte, whose center-right party VVD came in first in early results, celebrated a victory that also represented the defeat of the anti-immigration Freedom  party of Geert Wilders. He had pledged to take the Netherlands out of the EU, close all mosques and ban the Koran.

"It's not the 30 seats I hoped for but we have gained seats," Wilders said. "This patriotic spring will happen."

In Europe, the Dutch race was seen as a test of support for nationalist parties that have been gaining ground across the territory. France and Germany also face elections this year.

 Next month, the French go to the polls with the far right National Front, lead by Marine Le Pen, forecast to increase its vote dramatically.

In Germany, the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) may win seats in parliament for the first time in September's general election.

Mr Rutte's victory was warmly greeted by other European leaders and politicians:

French President Francois Hollande said he had won a "clear victory against extremism", as reported in the BBC.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted: "The Netherlands, oh the Netherlands you are a champion! Congratulations on this great result"

Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament until earlier this year, said he was relieved the Freedom Party had lost. "We must continue to fight for an open and free Europe!" he added on Twitter (in German).

During the election campaign, xenophobic sentiments have plagued Holland, once famous for being a tolerant country. The Guardian reported on how it really like for minority communities in the Netherlands.

 

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