Everything you need to know about the Dutch election on Wednesday

Violet Powell
March 15, 2017

Riots in Rotterdam recently were sparked by the Dutch government's blocking of Turkish officials entering Holland to rally expat voters for an upcoming Turkish referendum.

"Prime minister Mark Rutte's center-right VVD party will have to prove that the first place that the polls give is secure from Geert Wilders' PVV (Party for Freedom), anent immigration, anti-Islam and anti-EU party, that has vowed to" de-Islamicise" the Netherlands.

Wednesday's vote is the first of three significant elections in Europe this year - in the Netherlands, France and Germany - where the power of populist parties will be put to the test.

On Monday, Rutte said: 'I will not work with such a party, Mr Wilders, not in a cabinet nor with you supporting from outside. "If you have a call for that referendum, it's no longer just a referendum on European Union membership but a referendum on the euro".

He said: "We must answer back". Ballots will be counted manually to address concerns about hacking, though the electoral authorities do not expect any delays as a result. The leaders of all major movements said long before the elections that under no circumstances would they cooperate with Wilders who is known for his anti-Islamic and anti-European statements, which means that the right-wing party will again be in the opposition. Wilders has campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform and called on the country to ban the Koran and close mosques.

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A total of 28 parties are contesting 150 parliamentary seats and polls show the Liberals losing as many as 10 seats from the 40 the party had going into the campaign. No other party will deal with him and, as if to pre-empt their post-poll rejection of collaboration with him, he has also ruled out governing with, say the Dutch equivalent to the Conservatives. The party also looks to increase the Democrats' stance in government with policies including legalising the production of marijuana. In particular, if Marie Le Pen becomes the next President of France, it will be "game over" for the European Union as former Italian premier, Enrico Letta said in Malta a few weeks back. Due to the fragmented electorate and the exclusion of Wilders' party, a new ruling coalition could possibly involve four or more political parties.

The final days of campaigning have been overshadowed by a diplomatic crisis between the Dutch and Turkish governments.

Rutte sought to de-escalate the spat, while Wilders said he should have taken tougher action against Turkish diplomats. All the same, other surveys showed that as many as two-thirds of the electorate remained undecided on the eve of polling.

"Close the Dutch borders", Wilders told Rutte, as tempers flared in the 30-minute head-to-head televised debate.

Despite the fact that Rutte, as the current prime minister, is a key player in this closely watched global incident - his online posts about the incidents are drawing roughly the same attention as Wilders'. The House of Lords is expected to reject any amendments to the Brexit bill, and if the bill then passes through the House of Commons, seen as likely, UK Theresa May could trigger Article 50 as early as late Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

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