Exit poll gives Dutch PM Rutte big lead over far-right Wilders | Reuters

By Thomas Escritt and Toby Sterling
| AMSTERDAM

AMSTERDAM Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's centre-right VVD Party remained the biggest in parliament after an election on Wednesday with 31 of the 150 seats, the first exit poll said, roundly beating the anti-Islam Geert Wilders.For latest Dutch polls and a factbox on parties' position, click: hereWilders' Party for Freedom was tied in second place with two other parties at 19 seats apiece, according to the poll by national broadcaster NOS based on interviews with voters.

The turnout is forecast at 81 percent against 74.6 percent in the last election in 2012, according to NOS. If confirmed, the result will be a relief to mainstream parties across Europe, particularly in France and Germany, where right-wing nationalists are set to make a big impact in elections both will hold this year.

Rutte got a last-minute boost from a diplomatic row with Turkey, which allowed him to take a well-timed tough line on a majority Muslim country during an election campaign in which immigration and integration have been key issues. Dutch proportional representation means up to 15 parties could win a parliamentary seat and it could take months for Rutte to build a coalition.

Rutte had called the vote a European quarter-final, before a French semi-final and German final, and warned voters that a Wilders victory would be "the wrong sort of populism winning the day". The far-right Marine Le Pen is set to make the second-round run-off of France's presidential election in May, while in September's federal election in Germany, the right-wing, eurosceptic Alternative for Germany is likely to enter the national parliament for the first time. (Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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Published Date: Mar 16, 2017 02:32 am | Updated Date: Mar 16, 2017 02:32 am