Projections based on early results from parliamentary elections in the Netherlands Wednesday night showed Dutch voters decisively rejecting eurosceptic fringe parties, dramatically strengthening the pro-European centre in an election that had been expected to weaken it.
The far-right eurosceptic Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders saw its vote share cut nearly in half, while the far-left Socialist Party, which voted against eurozone rescue measures and led in polls over the summer, ended with the same share as in previous elections.
Meanwhile the Liberal and Labour parties, which backed eurozone rescue packages over the past two years, saw their shares rise to over 26 per cent each, a level neither party had reached in over a decade. Projections showed Liberal prime minister Mark Rutte retaining power with a lead of less than one per cent over Labour leader Diederik Samsom, but the race remained too close to call.
The verdict was sharpest for Mr Wilders, who gained international renown for his attacks on Islam but pivoted to an anti-EU message over the past year, attacking the government for “throwing money over the dikes” to help Greece and Spain while cutting social services at home. He had demanded that the Netherlands exit the euro and the EU itself. Mr Wilders acknowledged the results were an “enormous defeat”, telling his supporters there would be “celebration in Brussels tonight”.