Dutch exit polls indicate victory for Liberals and Labour
DISPELLING FEARS of a backlash against the euro zone, the Netherlands was on the verge last night of returning caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals as the country’s largest party, just a single seat ahead of Labour – giving the two together a comfortable parliamentary majority.
The two parties had been neck-and-neck for the last two weeks of the election campaign and both appear to have experienced an extraordinary last-minute surge, giving the Liberals 41 seats and Labour 40, a gain of 10 each, in the 150-seat parliament, according to early exit polls.
Although counting of votes was continuing into the night, the anti-austerity Socialist Party and its leader, Emile Roemer, appear to have been the big losers – failing to add a single seat to their 2010 tally of 15, despite at one stage having been on course for an historic left-wing victory.
The other big loser was outspoken right-wing leader Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party.
He advocated abandoning the euro and returning to the guilder. He appears to have halved his 2010 result, dropping from 24 seats to just 13. Deputy leader Fleur Agema said she was “shocked”.
As expected, the Liberals’ junior coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, also fared badly, falling from 21 seats to 13 – making it less likely that the two parties will be able to put together a workable coalition.
The social democratic party, D66, which is regarded as a potential partner in a “purple coalition” with the Liberals and Labour, took 12 seats – though their support would not be as essential as it appeared just 24 hours ago.
Despite the apparent outcome, there is no certainty, however, that the result of yesterday’s election will be a Liberal-Labour coalition – with Diederik Samsom strongly opposed to budget cuts proposed by the outgoing government.
Shortly before the exit polls gave the voters’ verdict, Mr Rutte reiterated his party’s commitment to financial discipline in a new government. “Euro zone regulations say our budget deficit must stay below 3 per cent of GDP, and we are doing that – not because of Brussels, but because we believe it is crucial for economic growth,” he said.
Although Mr Rutte and Mr Samsom have insisted there is no certainty, following last night’s result, that the Liberals and Labour will come together to form the basis of a new coalition, Mr Wilders claimed a deal was a foregone conclusion.
“It is absolutely clear they are preparing to get into bed together”, he said, warning that the Netherlands was “in danger of becoming a province of a European super-state.”