Europe's governments signal relief after Dutch election defeats far right - The Guardian
European governments facing a rising tide of populism heaved a collective sigh of relief after the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, swept aside the challenge of the anti-Islam, anti-EU, populist. Geert Wilders, in the parliamentary elections.
Angela Merkel was among many EU leaders to congratulate voters on what she called “a good day for democracy”. The German chancellor said she was “very glad”, as she thought many people were, “that a high turnout led to a very pro-European result”.
The French president, François Hollande, hailed “a clear victory against extremism”, while the EU commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, spoke of a vote for “free and tolerant societies in a prosperous Europe” that would be “an inspiration for many”.
With nearly all votes counted and no further significant changes expected, Rutte’s centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) was assured of 33 MPs, by far the largest party in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, the national news agency ANP said.
Wilders’ Freedom party (PVV) looked certain to stay in second place but a long way behind – having won 20 seats – and only just ahead of the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the liberal-progressive party D66, which both ended third with 19 seats.
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said Dutch voters had “made a show of responsibility and maturity ... in a key moment for Europe as a whole”. Denmark, Sweden and Norway said the country had opted for “serious politics”, “responsible leadership” and “a rejection of populism”.
After Britain’s vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s shock victory in the US presidential elections, a first-place finish for Wilders, who had pledged to “de-Islamicise” the Netherlands and take the country out of the EU if he won, would have sent shockwaves across the continent in a potentially critical year.
In France, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has also pledged a referendum on EU membership, is expected to make the runoff round in presidential elections in May, while Germany’s Eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is on target to win its first federal parliament seats later in the year.
The eyes of the world had been on the vote, Rutte told a cheering crowd of supporters at the VVD’s election night party. “This was an evening when … the Netherlands said ‘stop’ to the wrong sort of populism.”
Rutte is now set to begin the often lengthy process of building a new coalition, most likely based around the VVD, CDA and D66 – a combination that falls five MPs short of a 76-seat majority, leaving him seeking a fourth coalition partner. - Read More