General election 2017: The Netherlands goes to the polls as Europe watches

General election 2017: The Netherlands goes to the polls as Europe watches

With elections in France and Germany scheduled for later this year already showing unprecedented support for far-right populism, political and financial observers are concerned by the potential of a "Trump-style" shift away from traditional politics in favour of the emerging European alt-right.

In the run-up to the vote, party leaders took part in televised debates, with Mr Rutte and Mr Wilders clashing over how to stem immigration.

Some of Wilder's supporters told RT ahead of the election that the Party for Freedom is shaping the new political agenda for the Netherlands.

Whatever the final result of the elections in the Netherlands, there is one thing you can be sure of - a lengthy round of negotiations.

Ruud van Dongen, a 49-year-old chauffeur, said he would vote for Wilders' PVV as a protest against more flexible contracts that mean fewer people have jobs for life which used to be a staple in Dutch welfare state.

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However, even if Wilders gets the most votes he is unlikely to become prime minister.

Sky's Europe Correspondent Mark Stone said: "With the exit polls as they are, Geert Wilders has failed to do what many suspected he might be able to achieve which was to win the most seats in the Dutch parliament".

Current Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Party for Freedom and Democracy face the strongest opposition from the Freedom Party, and Geert Wilders and his anti-immigration and anti-Islam platform.

He previously said that the "patriotic revolution" would continue to take place, and "the genie will not go back into the bottle".

In the final debate on Tuesday night, he rounded on Lodewijk Asscher, whose Labour party could lose two-thirds of its seats in its worst ever defeat, punished by voters for backing Rutte's austerity programme in the outgoing two-party coalition. "I hope that adults make the same choice tomorrow".

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The far-right Marine Le Pen is set to make the second-round run-off of France's presidential election in May.

Wilders has little chance of forming a government, since other parties have ruled out a coalition with a party they view as racist.

Wednesday's election is expected to be followed by protracted coalition talks between several parties since no single party is likely to have an outright majority. "The Netherlands is not for everyone, the Netherlands is for the Dutch." .

Recent opinion polls suggested that about half of eligible voters were still undecided heading into the ballot booths Wednesday, but polls also showed that an ongoing diplomatic fight between Turkey and the Netherlands appeared to have given a last-minute boost to Rutte's ratings.

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