Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party has won the highest number of seats in parliamentary elections, exit polls show.
Polls suggest that Rutte’s center-right VVD Party gained 31 out of 150 seats during Wednesday’s elections, which had a turnout of 81 percent, the highest in the last 30 years.
“I am so proud at what has happened and happy that we have been given the trust again” by voters, said Rutte’s campaign leader Tamara van Ark.
Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration and anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), the Christian Democrats and the D66 Party, each won 19 seats.
Opinion polls had predicted that Wilders’ party would be leading the elections, but support for the PVV dropped over the past few days.
Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party (PVV) casts his ballot for the Dutch general elections at a polling station in The Hague on March 15, 2017.
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.
“Thank you PVV Voters! We won seats,” Wilders said in a tweet posted after the exit polls were announced.
“The first victory is in! And Rutte has not seen the last of me yet,” he added.
With elections coming up in France and Germany over the next few months, Rutte had voiced hopes of slowing the momentum of what he called the “wrong sort of populism” following the UK’s 2016 Brexit vote and the election of US President Donald Trump.
“This is a chance for a big democracy like the Netherlands to make a point to stop this toppling over of the domino stones of the wrong sort of populism,” he said after voting.
Meanwhile, the German Foreign Ministry voiced relief over Rutte’s win.
“The Dutch have rejected the anti-European populist. Good for that. We need you for a strong Europe
in 2017,” it tweeted.