Amid unprecedented international attention, the Dutch went to the polls Wednesday in a parliamentary election that is seen as a bellwether for the future of populism in a year of crucial votes in Europe.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte claimed a dominating victory over anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, who failed the year's first litmus test for populism in Europe.
Provisional results with over half the votes counted suggested Rutte's party won 32 seats in the 150-member legislature, 13 more than Wilders' party, which took only third place with 19 seats. The surging CDA Christian Democrats claimed 20.
Following Britain's vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's election as U.S. president, "the Netherlands said, 'Whoa!' to the wrong kind of populism," said Rutte, who is now poised for a third term as prime minister.
"We want to stick to the course we have — safe and stable and prosperous," Rutte added.
Wilders, who campaigned on radical pledges to close borders to migrants from Muslim nations, close mosques, ban the Quran and take the Netherlands out of the EU, had insisted that whatever the result of the election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent aren't going away.
"Rutte has not seen the back of me," Wilders said after the results had sunk in.
His Party for Freedom clinched 24 seats in 2010 before sinking to 15 in 2012, and Wednesday's total left him with about 12 percent of the electorate, far less than populists in Britain and the United States have scored.
"Those are not the 30 seats we hoped for," Wilders told reporters early Thursday, adding that he'd "rather have been the biggest party."
Both France and Germany have elections this year in which far-right candidates and parties are hoping to make an impact.
Text from the AP news story, Dutch PM Rutte claims win over 'wrong kind of populism', by Mike Corder and Raf Casert.
Photos by Muhammed Muheisen