Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has claimed victory for his free-market and pro-European VVD Party in Wednesday's parliamentary elections, after preliminary results indicated a slender lead for the ruling party.
Provisional results declared late on Wednesday after counting most of the votes polled indicated that the VVD Party secured 41 seats in the 150-member Lower House of Parliament, two more than its largest rival, the center-left Labor Party.
The Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, well-known for his anti-Islam and anti-EU views, is on track to win 16 seats, eight lesser that what it managed to win the 2010 election. The Socialist Party is predicted to come fourth with 15 seats.
Incidentally, Wednesday's election was widely seen as a referendum on the Netherlands' continued commitment to the 27-member European Union amid the ongoing sovereign debt crisis. It was called after the Freedom Party withdrew its support for Rutte's budget cuts six months ago.
The partial results indicate that the Dutch voters have rejected the anti-EU stand of Geert Wilders in favor of pro-Europe parties backing austerity and the recent eurozone bailouts.
After results from 92 percent of municipalities reported late on Wednesday, Rutte told his supporters at a beach-side hotel in The Hague that his principal rival, Labor leader Diederik Samsom, had called him to congratulate him on his party's victory in the polls.
"Tonight let's enjoy it, and tomorrow we have get to work to make sure a stable Cabinet is formed as soon as possible. Then I'm going to get to work with you to help the Netherlands emerge from this crisis," Rutte said, apparently referring to the European debt crisis that has affected his country as well.
The partial results indicate that VVD and the Labor Party have secured more seats in the Parliament in their individual capacities than what was projected in the opinion polls. Although the results set the stage for both parties to form a two-party ruling coalition, their leaders had earlier downplayed such a possibility during the campaign.
Nevertheless, Dutch media quoted Labour Party leader Samsom as telling his supporters in Amsterdam that the party remains willing to form a new coalition government with other parties "as long as the result from tonight is translated into the plans of a new Cabinet."
Meanwhile, Greet Wilders conceded defeat while addressing his supporters late 0n Wednesday, saying: "I would have rather stood here with good news, but the voter has spoken. We have lost badly."
Notably, a complete picture of the poll outcome will emerge only after the provisional final result, expected to be announced on Thursday, is officially confirmed on Monday. Nevertheless, the political parties are expected be begin efforts for the formation of a coalition government well before Monday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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