The Latest: French leader hails Dutch victory over extremism

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Latest on the Dutch parliamentary election (all times local):

1:15 a.m.

French President Francois Hollande is congratulating Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for his election success and his “clear victory against extremism.”

After Rutte’s party soundly beat the party of anti-immigrant populist Geert Wilders, Hollande said in a statement early Thursday, “the values of openness, respect for others, and a faith in Europe’s future are the only true response to the nationalist impulses and isolationism that are shaking the world.”

France is facing a presidential election starting next month in which far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who wants to leave the European Union and sharply curb immigration, is expected to make a strong showing.

Both Rutte and Wilders had painted Wednesday’s Dutch election as a battle between established politics and populist ideas.

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11:25 p.m.

Victorious Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says his win over anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders stopped the “wrong sort of populism” in its tracks.

Addressing an election night gathering of supporters in the Hague, Rutte said “the Netherlands said ‘Whoa! Stop!’ to the wrong kind of populism” after Britain voted to leave the European Union and the United States elected Donald Trump as president,

Rutte, who is now poised for a third term as prime minister, said: “We want to stick to the course we have — safe and stable and prosperous.”

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10:20 p.m.

The outcome of the parliamentary election in the Netherlands was pretty straightforward, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte standing tall above everyone. Forming a government will be much more complicated.

Since the left-leaning Labor Party of Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Ye’Roon Dye’sul-BLOOM) suffered historic losses, the coalition Labor had with Rutte’s VVD party will probably collapse.

The prime minister is likely to look to the right instead for a new coalition partner.

The main exit poll showed Rutte controlling 31 seats, and three parties each winning with 19 — the pro-EU centre party D66, the Christian Democrat CDA and the Party for Freedom of anti-Islam nationalist Geert Wilders.

Rutte has been resolute about not wanting to rule with Wilders, so that tightens the market in which he can acquire the necessary 75-seat threshold.

Weeks, if not months of coalition-building talks may be required before a new government is installed.

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10:05 p.m.

An exit poll in the Netherlands shows Jesse Klaver has led his Green Left party to a historic victory, turning it into the largest party on the left wing of Dutch politics for the first time.

According to the Ipsos exit poll, the Greens leapt from four seats to 16 in parliament after a strong campaign by the charismatic Klaver, who invites comparisons to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“This is a fantastic result for us, a historic victory,” Green Left chairwoman Marjolein Meijer said.

She says the result shows there is “very fertile ground in the Netherlands for change and a positive and hopeful story.”

Meijer said: “For us this is just the beginning.”

It remains to be seen if the 30-year-old Klaver will take his party into the next ruling coalition, which looks likely to be dominated by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD and other right-leaning parties.

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9:40 p.m.

The Dutch Labor Party of eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Ye’Roon Dye’sul-BLOOM) has been punished by voters in parliamentary elections, plunging from 38 seats at the last election to just nine, according to an exit poll.

The left-leaning party appeared to be hammered by its supporters for its role over the last four years in pushing through a tough austerity package as junior member in a two-party Cabinet with the right-wing VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Labor Party junior Cabinet minister Sharon Dijksma called the defeat, “an enormous slap for us all and I think that all social democrats this evening have a scratch on their soul.”

Dijksma says that Labor for four years, “tried to haul this country in a fair and reasonable way out of the crisis, but the results of that have not been convincingly portrayed to our voters.”

Tamara van Ark, campaign leader of Rutte’s liberal VVD party, said: “I am so proud at what has happened and happy that we have been given the trust again” by voters.

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9:05 p.m.

The Netherlands’ main exit poll suggests that anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders had an unexpectedly poor showing during the Dutch elections, finishing far behind Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

For Wilders, the poll was a test whether his fiery nationalist rhetoric caught the imagination of the population. Even if he increased his total in the 150-seat legislature from 15 to 19, it is was a disappointment since he was seeking to become the biggest party.

Instead, the poll suggests Rutte has 31 seats.

A Wilders victory would have further boosted the fortunes of populists across Europe. But now, it was the first indication since the Brexit vote last year, that populists could also be beaten.

Both Rutte and Wilders had defined Wednesday’s Dutch parliamentary election as a litmus test for populism in Europe, where France and Germany also face crucial contests in the months ahead.

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9:00 p.m.

The Netherlands’ main exit poll suggests that Prime Minister Mark Rutte has won the Dutch elections, easily beating anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders.

For the two-time prime minister Rutte, the poll indicated that an economic recovery and his hard-line handling of a diplomatic dispute with Turkey over the past week has won him support.

The Ipsos polling company gave Rutte’s party 31 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, compared to 19 seats for 3 other parties, including that of Wilders. Weeks or months of coalition talks are expected to follow.

The exit poll was conducted at 43 of the 9,300 polling stations across the country Wednesday. It had a margin of error of two percentage points.

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3:45 p.m.

Voter turnout is high in the Netherlands as the country’s parliamentary elections unfold under blue skies and warm spring temperatures.

Research bureau Ipsos, which is conducting an exit poll, says that turnout at 1:45 p.m. (1245 GMT; 8:45 a.m. EDT) was 33 per cent, up from 27 per cent at the same stage in the last parliamentary election.

Major cities also were publishing turnout figures. In Amsterdam, turnout at 1 p.m. (1200 GMT; 8 a.m. EDT) was 25.1 per cent, compared to 14.1 per cent at the last national elections, in 2012.

In Rotterdam, around 38 per cent had voted at 3 p.m. (1400 GMT; 10 a.m. EDT), compared to 30 per cent at the last national elections.

National broadcaster NOS reports that extra voting booths are being added at some popular locations, such as a high-rise tower in Amsterdam.

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2:10 p.m.

The Green Left leader says he has a recipe for beating right-wing populism in Europe: stay true to your ideals.

The 30-year-old Jesse Klaver has been the surprise of the Dutch election campaign and polls show his environmentally-friendly and socialist-minded party will do well when results are released Wednesday evening.

Klaver is convinced he has the answers to stop of surge of the far right in Europe.

He said: “What I would say to all my left-wing friends in Europe: don’t try to fake the populace. Stand for your principles. Be straight. Be pro-refugee. Be pro-European.”

Klaver added: “We’re gaining momentum in the polls. And I think that’s the message we have to send to Europe. You can stop populism.”

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12:45 p.m.

Some Dutch voters are queuing up to cast their ballots on one of the newest pieces of their nation — a recently created island in a large lake north of Amsterdam.

Authorities have put a polling station on the Marker Wadden, an island created last year by Dutch land reclamation experts and intended to become a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Nearby Lelystad municipality is offering free boat trips to the polls for voters in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections. Authorities said the voting voyages were so popular they were adding an extra boat to ferry people to and from the remote polling booth, a round trip of more than three hours.

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12 p.m.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says his country’s parliamentary elections can show the world that what he calls the “wrong sort of populism” can be stopped.

“It is the third elections after Brexit, after the American elections,” Rutte said Wednesday as he cast his vote at a school in The Hague. “We have the upcoming French and German elections. And this is a chance for a big democracy like the Netherlands to make a point — to stop this toppling over of the domino stones of the wrong sort of populism.”

Rutte and firebrand anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders have been in the media spotlight in the closing days of campaigning as many look to the Netherlands’ vote for a sign of the progress of populism ahead of elections elsewhere in Europe.

Keen to mobilize as many voters for his VVD party as possible, Rutte repeated a warning he has been making in recent days — that despite his party’s lead in most polls, the Netherlands could wake up Thursday morning and discover that “Geert Wilders is leading the biggest party.”

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11:30 a.m.

A website that assembles data from major pollsters in the Netherlands has published its final tally and it’s good news for Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The site Peilingwijzer has Rutte’s right-wing VVD party taking between 24 and 28 seats in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament.

Anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders’ far-right populist Party for Freedom is in second place with 19-23 seats, narrowly ahead of the Christian Democrats, which are forecast to pick up 19-21 seats. Wilders’ party has been losing ground in recent weeks.

The biggest loser looks like Rutte’s junior coalition partner since 2012, the Labor Party, which is projected to take 10-12 seats, well below the 38 seats the party won four years ago.

Election results will begin coming in after voting stations close at 9 p.m. (2000 GMT).

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10:20 a.m.

A closing debate featuring leaders of Dutch political parties was far and away the most popular show on television on the eve of the country’s election.

The Viewing Research Foundation, which publishes viewing figures, said that nearly 3.3 million people tuned into the debate Tuesday evening, the last major campaign event before voting got underway early Wednesday.

Second on the list was the 8 p.m. news by national broadcaster NOS, which preceded the debate, with 2.5 million viewers.

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9:30 a.m.

Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders says that whatever the result of Wednesday’s election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent will be here to stay.

After casting his ballot in the Hague, Wilder said: “Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle.”

He predicted the same feeling would show in elections later this year in France and Germany. He says: “Despite what the elite wants, politicians are getting strong who have a totally different concept of what the people want them to do.”

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7:30 a.m.

Polling booths have opened across the nation in Dutch parliamentary elections, a vote that is being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national elections in France and Germany later this year.

Two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s right-wing VVD party was leading in polls ahead of Wednesday’s vote, with the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders a close second.

Rutte has framed the vote as a choice between continuity and chaos, portraying himself as a safe custodian of this nation of 17 million’s economic recovery, while casting Wilders as a far-right radical who would not be prepared to take tough decisions were he to gain office.

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