All eyes on the Netherlands as far right aims to win EU vote

Photo: Dutch News

The Netherlands is the first of the 27 EU member states to hold elections for its European parliament representatives and experts say the Dutch results will point towards the likely trend in the rest of the block.

Although the official results will not be announced until Sunday evening when voting ends elsewhere, broadcaster NOS will publish an exit poll after the Dutch polling stations close their doors at 9 pm on Thursday.

The last opinion poll, published on the last full day of campaigning, showed that the far-right PVV and the GroenLinks-PvdA alliance are currently neck and neck.

Frans Timmermans, leader of the GroenLinks-PvdA alliance in the Dutch parliament, said on Wednesday the Dutch results could impact on other countries.

The exit poll, he said, is “seen as the official result in the rest of Europe”. And that, he said, will have an impact on voting dynamics elsewhere.

The campaign in the Netherlands has been muted, but PVV leader Geert Wilders, who won last November’s general election, has directed much of his attention in the past few days to Timmermans and the left-wing alliance.

“Please all go and vote and make sure the PVV not Frans Timmermans becomes the biggest party today, and we will put the Netherlands first again, with a tougher asylum policy,” Wilders said on social media on Thursday, shortly after voting.

The PVV currently has no MEPs and is on target to take around eight of the 31 Dutch seats in the European parliament. The far and radical right are also forecast to make major gains in other EU countries. Although the gains are not expected to be enough to give them power in the 720-seat parliament, they are likely to increase their influence on the centre.

PVV MPs were previously part of the far right Identity and Democracy group, but Wilders has now said he would like to join a new faction which France’s Marine Le Pen has mooted.

ID currently includes Italy, Austria and Belgium’s far right parties and recently expelled Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland for being too extreme.

Tough stance

How well the PVV does will be largely down to turnout, which was just 42% in the Netherlands last year.

The PVV is one of four parties in a right-wing alliance set to be sworn in as the next Dutch government later this month. The new coalition has said it will take a tough stance in Brussels, calling for example, for exemptions on EU asylum and environmental rules and a significant cut in the Dutch contribution to the EU budget.

Voting is also taking place in Estonia on Thursday, but its polling stations will remain open until Sunday.

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