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 an election dominated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Rutte’s VVD party was projected to take 36 out of 150 seats in the lower house, a clear mandate to form a new coalition government.
The pro-European Union, centre-left D-66, led by former U.N. diplomat Sigrid Kaag, was seen coming in second with 27 seats, the best result in its 55-year history.
Speaking in the evening, she said her campaign had taught her that the Dutch were optimistic and rejected extremes.
Among major parties, the anti-Islam Freedom Party of lawmaker Geert Wilders was set to lose three seats to 17, the coalition member Christian Democrats drop five seats to 14 and Labour holding flat at nine according to the most recent figures.
The initial numbers from the poll indicated that Rutte would need to form a coalition with at least two other parties to get a majority of 76 seats in parliament.
Despite the pandemic, voting turnout was 83%, about as high as four years ago.
Official returns are expected to be released throughout the night and Thursday morning, with final results announced on March 26.
The largest three parties aside from the Freedom Party have enough seats to form a majority government, in a process Rutte said he aimed to finish as quickly as possible.
Government formations in recent years, however, have taken months, as parties negotiated over detailed government plans.
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