Millions of Dutch voters are casting their ballots in key parliamentary elections dominated by the parties of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and far-right MP Geert Wilders.
Polling stations opened Wednesday morning across the Netherlands, where up to 13 million voters can cast their votes until 21:00.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) of the VVD Liberal party attends a debate in The Hague, Netherlands, March 14, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
The elections, which are the first of three crucial votes in the European Union (EU) this year, are closely being watched following the shock victory of US President Donald Trump and Britain’s Brexit vote last year.
A possible victory for Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) would strengthen far-right populism in the continent ahead of national votes in France and Germany expected later this year.
Premier Rutte has described the Dutch elections as an opportunity for voters to “beat the wrong sort of populism.”
He has framed the vote as a choice between continuity and chaos, while portraying Wilders as a far-right radical who would not be prepared to take tough decisions if he wins office.
Wilders has pledged to take the Netherlands out of the EU, close all mosques, ban Muslim’s holy book, the Quran, and close borders to immigrants from Muslim countries.
The chances of Wilders’ party winning the elections, however, are not high, with polls suggesting that the results could be closed with Rutte’s Liberal party staying in power.