THE HAGUE, Netherlands – An exit poll commissioned by the two biggest Dutch news broadcasters predicted a narrow election victory Wednesday for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s free-market and pro-European Union VVD party, but the result was considered too close to call.
The poll gave VVD 41 of the House of Representatives’ 150 seats and the centre-left Labor Party 40 votes. It has a 1.5 per cent margin of error.
If official results bear out the poll, the result would set up VVD and Labor â€” both pro-Europe parties â€” to forge a two-party ruling coalition with Rutte returning for a second term as prime minister. Both parties won an extra 10 seats compared with the last parliament.
The election was cast as a virtual referendum on Europe amid the continent’s crippling debt crisis, but the result was a stark rejection of the most radical critic of the EU, anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party was forecast to win 13 seats, 11 fewer than at the last election.
Wilders appeared to have been punished by voters for walking out of talks with Rutte in April to hammer out an austerity package to rein in the Dutch budget deficit.
The VVD’s campaign manager, lawmaker Stef Blok, did not want to speculate about possible coalition partners until final results come in, but said the information so far “shows the VVD has an unbelievable amount of support.”
Ronald Plasterk of Labor said voters had backed his party’s more leftist policies.
“It’s an honest platform,” he said. “On the one hand we’re for a strong euro, for solid government finances, but also for a real social policy and welfare net.”