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Netherlands’ prime minister has won an election for the fourth time in a row.

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Netherlands' prime minister has won an election for the fourth time in a row.
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Netherlands' prime minister has won an election for the fourth time in a row.

Netherlands’ prime minister has won an election for the fourth time in a row.

 

According to near-complete election results released Thursday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative party won a fourth consecutive election win in a vote held amid a national lockout and dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rutte is now in pole position to begin talks with another major winner, the moderate, pro-European D66 party headed by former diplomat Sigrid Kaag, who danced on a table Wednesday night after an exit poll showed her party scoring one of its largest-ever ballot box victories.

Rutte said voters had given his party, the VVD, a “overwhelming vote of confidence,” which he described as “humbling.” It also encourages us to do everything we can to make it a success.”

“We have a massive agenda ahead of us,” Rutte said. “We have to lead the Netherlands through the corona crisis in the coming weeks and months.”

The leader of the lower house of parliament was to meet with party leaders on Thursday afternoon to begin the process of forming a new coalition. The Netherlands’ splintered political landscape — 16 parties were expected to gain at least one seat — could make coalition talks difficult.

Rutte, for one, wants a fast formation process so that a new government can continue fighting the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of over 16,000 people in this 17-million-strong country. Rutte’s win came just two months after his former government resigned in the aftermath of a controversy in which the country’s tax office wrongly branded thousands of families who sought child welfare benefits as fraudsters.

According to the prognosis by national new agency ANP, based on nearly 80% of votes counted, his party was expected to win 35 seats in the 150-seat parliament, two more than in the previous election, while D66 won five seats to bring its bloc to 24.

The far-right nationalist Forum for Democracy, which rose from two to eight seats after its flamboyant leader Thierry Baudet campaigned across the country on a promise to end the country’s coronavirus lockdown, was the other major winner of the night.

Baudet, who is known for being hyperactive on social media, was silent on election night and was conspicuous by his absence. On Thursday morning, the Twitter hashtag “waarisbaudet” or “whereisbaudet” was trending in the Netherlands.

Hans Smolders, a newly elected Forum for Democracy lawmaker, had a clear explanation: “Thierry Baudet was completely exhausted,” he told the Dutch current affairs show Good Morning Netherlands early Thursday.

It was a political revival for the party, which had imploded late last year after reports of anti-Semitic text messages circulated among its youth wing.

Despite Baudet’s wins, the Netherlands’ far-right nationalist bloc is unlikely to enter any new alliance. Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam lawmaker whose Party for Freedom lost three seats and is now the country’s third-largest party, announced that he would lead the opposition in parliament once more.

After four years of resistance to Rutte’s outgoing center-right government, the political left appears to be doomed. Parties on the left have lost seats or struggled to gain ground. The Green Left, which won a large number of seats in the 2017 election, was expected to lose half of its 14 seats.

Pro-EU parties made gains in the election, which took place only months after the United Kingdom’s Brexit withdrawal deal with the European Union went into effect. D66, the major winner, has long been a staunch supporter of the 27-nation bloc, and Volt, an outspokenly pro-European party, was predicted to gain three seats in the lower house.

Tim Logemann, a voter, expressed disappointment with the outcome.

He said, “I had hoped that the VVD would certainly lose some points.” “Even more disappointing is that I voted for one of the minor parties that got no votes at all.”

Kaag, a former diplomat who served in Rutte’s last coalition as minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, had campaigned as a viable alternative to Rutte as national leader in a country where no female prime minister has ever been elected.

“I have always assumed, and this evening has confirmed, that people in the Netherlands are moderate and admire a positive attitude,” she said after her party tweeted a picture of Kaag standing on a table celebrating her party’s major victories.

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