Dutch vote in tight race to pick a new prime minister

Estimated read time 2 min read

Dutch voters cast their ballots on Wednesday in a nail-biting election in which opinion polls show at least three parties – including the far-right – could hope for the top spot, with no clear leader having emerged.

A weighted poll published on the eve of the vote showed anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party tied for the lead with the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, followed closely by a joint Labor/Green ticket.

Only one thing is certain: the Netherlands will get its first new prime minister in over a decade, after Rutte resigned in July as his fourth coalition government collapsed, ending a 13-year tenure.

Restricting immigration – the issue that triggered the collapse of Rutte’s last cabinet – has been a key issue in the campaign.

“It’s been enough now. The Netherlands can’t take it anymore. We have to think about our own people first now. Borders closed. Zero asylum seekers,” Wilders said in a television debate late on Tuesday.

Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz, a Turkish immigrant tough on immigration and Rutte’s successor at the helm of the VVD, who is hoping to become the country’s first woman prime minister, responded:

“I don’t think anyone believes Wilders would be a prime minister for all. He’s all about closing borders, excluding groups who he feels don’t belong in the Netherlands.”

At stake is also whether voters in one of Europe’s most prosperous countries are willing to continue funding climate policies, such as an expensive rollout of offshore wind farms amid a cost-of-living shock across the continent.

No party is on track to take more than 20 percent of the vote, and with late polls showing Labor leader Frans Timmermans and Wilders making gains, many scenarios are possible.

Voting booths opened at 7:30 a.m. and will close at 9 p.m., when national broadcaster NOS publishes its first exit poll.

(Cover: People cast their votes during the Dutch parliamentary elections in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 22, 2023. /Reuters)

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