The Hague, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- The Dutch liberal-conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), led by incumbent prime minister Mark Rutte, is on track to win 35 seats in parliament with 88 percent of the vote counted on Thursday.
Once confirmed, it would be the fourth consecutive election since 2010 that Rutte’s party has won a majority.
“Voters have given my party an overwhelming vote of confidence,” Rutte said after preliminary results were published overnight. “I think everyone wants a new cabinet as quickly as possible. We’re in the middle of a very serious crisis and we’ll do our best.”
VVD is followed by progressive D66 as the second largest group, moving the far right Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders into third place.
The strong performance in the polls comes after Rutte’s cabinet resigned in January over its handling of a child benefits scandal and despite his government’s shaky response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Netherlands has reported more than 16,000 deaths from Covid-19 and was among the last to impose general rules on wearing masks in public and ordering lockdown, while an announcement of a curfew led to three nights of riots across the country last month.
The results are a major blow to far-right and anti-European parties, in particular that of Wilders, who had been the leader of the opposition. The Party of Freedom won 17 seats, three less than in 2017.
The Christian Democrats CDA, junior partners of the current government along with D66, suffered the loss of 4 seats, leaving them with 15 parliamentary representatives. It was a bad night for their leader, Wopke Hoekstra, who serves as Minister of Finance in the current acting Executive and in whom the party had placed all its hopes.
Vote counting will continue on Thursday. The process is considerably slower than usual due to coronavirus measures and the fact that 37 political parties ran in the elections, making the ballots larger and more complicated to handle than normal. EFE-EPA