Dutch head to polls to vote on prime minister

Bunched behind the VVD are a range of parties --from the left to the far right - that are battling for second place - or even a surprise first place.

Dutch journalist Chris Aalberts says, "I would say this is about globalization".

Rutte's right-wing VVD party is narrowly leading polls ahead of the election. "We give people a chance to fully indicate the parties they consider, and their doubts, and that they are not yet certain", says Boukje Cuelenaere, head of CentERdata's survey research department.

The leader of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom insisted: "The Netherlands does not belong to all of us".

Mr Wilders described protesters who rioted outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam at the weekend as "scum". Wilders responded by saying Rutte's administration provided better healthcare to immigrants than Dutch citizens themselves.

Previous Dutch elections have not attracted as much attention as this one, but many observers around the world have their eyes on the outcome to see if Europe will swing right, despite its fraught history fighting fascism.

The speeches were meant to encourage the large Turkish expatriate population to vote "yes" in the upcoming Turkish referendum, which could expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers. Polling stations across the Netherlands opened at 7.30 am local time (9.30 am Moscow Time) on Wednesday, as the country's parliamentary elections got underway.

He predicted the same feeling would show in elections later this year in France and Germany.

While that would be a 10-seat loss from the last election in 2012, the Ipsos poll, published immediately following the end of voting Wednesday, indicated that VVD held a significant advantage over the Party for Freedom (PVV) of far-right populist Geert Wilders.

"Students choose hope over fear", Klaver tweeted.

A high turnout early on is more likely to be good news for opponents of Mr Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV), according to political science professor Sarah de Lange, of the University of Amsterdam.

The school election is organized by Pro Demos, an independent organization that informs the public about Dutch democracy.

However, he called on Dutch voters to stop "the wrong populism" at the polls. The party was consistently part of a ruling coalition since the mid-1970s, and tied with both the D66 and PVV to win a projected 19 seats.

Even many of those in Volendam who supported Mr Wilders stance on immigration accepted that his at times outlandish rhetoric was too strong for government.

What can Dutch elections tell us about Europe?

It is the first major European election of 2017. "And Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!"

  • Joey Payne