Geert Wilders loss in Netherlands hailed by leaders as key moment for tolerant societies and serious politics on continent
By Jon Henley in The Hague / The Guardian / Thursday 16 March 2017 12.07 EDT
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”.
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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.