Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was on track to win a fourth term in office on Wednesday, with his conservative party leading exit polls in elections dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, APA reports citing Reuters.
Rutte’s VVD party was projected to take 36 out 150 seats in the lower house, a clear mandate to form a new coalition government. The pro-EU, centre-left D-66 was seen coming in second place with 27 seats, the exit poll showed.
The initial numbers from the poll indicated that Rutte will need to form a coalition with at least two other parties to get a majority of 76 seats in parliament.
Among major parties, the anti-Islam Freedom Party of lawmaker Geert Wilders was set to lose 3 seats to 17, coalition member Christian Democrats lost 5, and Labour was flat.
In a sign of a further splintering of the electorate that has made it hard to form a stable government in recent years, a record 17 parties were set to get at least one seat while only the three biggest parties won more than 10% of the total vote.
With the pan-European Volt party expected to enter parliament with three seats, explicitly pro-E.U. parties combined were projected to have won 20% of the vote, inching ahead of the three eurosceptic far-right parties together.
The Netherlands is one of the first major European Union economies to hold elections during the COVID-19 crisis, and voting was held over three days to prevent the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 16,000 people in the nation of 17 million.
With a night-time curfew in place due to continuing high infection rates, and a ban on public gatherings during the day, the campaign was conducted mostly through television debates.
Election night was also stripped of the usual scenes of halls full of cheering or disappointed party members, with political leaders limited to giving televised statements.
By the end of voting turnout was 83%, compared to 82% four years ago.
The largest three parties aside from the Freedom party are likely to form a new government with one or two other parties, in a process which may take months.