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Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, saw off a challenge from far-right populist rival, Geert Wilders, during the general election in the Netherlands. After a night that saw Dutch labour collapse, Mr. Wilders flop and 2 pro-EU parties surge. The messy business of coalition building now begins.
It was an extraordinarily tight campaign. Mr. Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy enjoyed a late surge, aided partly by the prime minister's handling of a row with Turkey. And are now on track to win 32 seats out of 150.
By contrast, Mr. Wilders is set for second place with 20 seats. Mr. Wilder has had a lead in the polls since the start of the year, but many voters simply could not palate the thought of actually voting for his party for freedom. His policies include banning the Quran. His performance this time around actually gives him fewer seats than when picked to win in 2010.
But the main casualty of the night was the Dutch Labour Party. They lost 75% of their seats. Falling from the 2nd largest party to the 7th. Voters did not thank them for their role in the grand coalition with Mr. Rutte's VVD, which pushed through controversial reforms to pensions and health care.
Other liberal and left wing parties feasted on Labour's corpse. 2 pro-EU parties with the best performance of the night, both growing their vote share. D66, a liberal party with a soft policy on asylum and immigration, came in joint third. Along with the Christian Democrats, a centre right-party that benefits from taking a tough line on immigration, without the more obscene comments of Mr. Wilders.
But the stand-up performer was the left-wing environmental party, Green-Left, which quadrupled its vote share, winning 14 seats compared to just 4 last time around. The results paved the way for months of tricky coalition negotiations. Forming a coalition in the Netherlands normally takes months, even when there's just 2 or 3 parties.
This time around a 4 party coalition will be necessary. Do not expect a quick result. But one thing is clear, thanks to Mr. Rutte's victory, the man at the top will stay the same. But everything else has changed.