This Man's Popularity Is Huge Test for Europe

Dutch election blow, but not lethal blow to populism: Finnish researcher

"If you are in charge of a country you need to take sensible measures", Rutte replied, to loud applause, in a jab at the Dutch MP known for his love of Twitter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hurled a new round of abuse at The Netherlands on Wednesday, accusing the country of massacring over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995.

Today he said: "Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle. And this patriotic revolution, whether today or tomorrow, will stay", Wilders said, voting earlier.

The voter turnout in 2012 was 74.6 percent, which was one of the lowest since 1970, when compulsory voting was abolished.

With two days to go until the Dutch vote in a pivotal parliamentary election, pollster Maurice De Hond found that the spat between the Netherlands and Turkey, and Saturday's night of rioting by ethnic Turks in Rotterdam, had benefited the two parties that have been most skeptical on immigration.

His Labor opponent, Lodewijk Asscher, who has been in government with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, retorted that Wilders was a man of "10,000 angry tweets and no solutions".

"I want the Netherlands to be the first country which stops this trend of the wrong sort of populism", Rutte told reporters.

Geert Wilders, a passionate anti-Muslim politician who has called for the Netherlands' mosques to be shuttered and borders to be closed to asylum seekers and immigrants from Islamic countries, surged in the polls in recent months but the popularity of his Freedom Party has waned in the past few weeks.

With the sixth largest economy in the European Union, the Netherlands is at the heart of the eurozone and European Union decision-making.

The sheer size of the ballot seems unlikely to put off voters, however.

"The question is, do people really want more refugees here?"

"My mother has never voted before, but now she has and encouraged the whole family to do so because the situation is serious", said another headscarf-wearing woman. While Wilders' Party for Freedom is in second place in polling for Wednesday's elections, it trailed in fourth in the school election with 12.6 percent. Though the latest Peilingwijzer poll of polls projected Rutte winning, it also showed that Wilders, who pledged to hold a Brexit-style referendum on quitting the European Union, was close behind. Regardless of how it performs, the party will struggle to form a government.

In a final debate on Tuesday, Rutte proudly stood behind his decision over the weekend to expel one Turkish government minister and prevent the entry of another over concerns that their presence would "incite" both the Islamophobic supporters of Wilders as well as the local Dutch-Turkish population.

But Wilders and his party, the Party for Freedom (PVV), are far from the only force in the election.

Wednesday's election is expected to be followed by protracted coalition talks between several parties since no single party is likely to have an outright majority.



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