SHAFAQNA- The far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in Dutch elections on Wednesday.
The results were immediately cheered by pro-European politicians who hoped that they could help stall some of the momentum of the populist, anti-European Union and anti-Muslim forces Wilders has come to symbolize, and which have threatened to fracture the bloc.
Voters, who turned out in record numbers, nonetheless rewarded right and center-right parties that had co-opted parts of his hard-line message, including that of the incumbent prime minister, Mark Rutte. Some parties that challenged the establishment from the left made significant gains, the New York Times reported.
The Dutch vote was closely watched as a harbinger of potential trends in a year of important European elections, including in France in just weeks, and later in Germany and possibly Italy.
Many of the Dutch parties that prevailed favor the European Union — a rare glimmer of hope at a time when populist forces have created an existential crisis for the bloc and Britain prepares for its withdrawal, or “Brexit.”
According to an unofficial tally compiled by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation, the country’s public broadcaster, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was likely to capture 33 of the 150 seats in Parliament — a loss of seven seats, but still far more than any other party.
In the Netherlands, the results betrayed a lingering distrust of turning over the reins of power to the far right, even as its message dominated the campaign and was likely to influence policies in the new government.
The anti-Islam politician who had called for a ban on the Quran in the Netherlands, gained seats but failed to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union, according to early results and exit polls.