Dutch election: PM Mark Rutte sees off far-right challenge

Geert Wilders' far-right party has become the second-largest party, while the Green party more than tripled their seats

Dutch election: PM Mark Rutte sees off far-right challenge

Current Dutch Prime Minister and election winner Mark Rutte. Picture by: Daniel Reinhardt/DPA/PA Images

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has won the country's election, holding off a strong challenge from far-right leader Geert Wilders.

Mr Rutte's centre-right VVD party is thought to have taken 33 of the 150 parliamentary seats, 13 more than Mr Wilders' anti-Islam, anti-immigrant PVV party.

While the early results suggest the VVD lost eight seats compared to the 2012 vote, it puts Mr Rutte in a strong position to form a new coalition.

The Christian Democrat CDA and liberal & progressive D66 are both likely to secure 19 seats.

Mr Rutte claimed his victory had stopped the "wrong kind of populism" in its tracks, after last year's Brexit vote and the election of President Trump.

He said: "We want to stick to the course we have - safe and stable and prosperous."

Mr Wilders, who wants to close mosques, ban the Koran and leave the EU, received much of the media coverage during the campaign.

In a tweet, the politician said: "We were the 3rd largest party of the Netherlands. Now we are the 2nd largest party. Next time we will be nr. 1!"

Meanwhile, the Green party saw a big rise in support, winning 14 seats compared to four in 2014, with their share of the vote up from 2% five years ago to 11% this time.

The party did little to hide their happiness over the result:

The big losers of the night were the social democratic PvdA party. The party - a partner in the outgoing coalition government - is believed to have dropped from 38 seats to nine.

There was a high turnout where voters had 28 parties to choose from.

Coalition talks are now expected to last weeks or possibly months, with most of the main parties having already stated they would not work with the PVV.

Mr Rutte, who had 40 seats in the previous parliament, vowed never to work with Mr Wilders again, turned off by his incendiary remarks and after the PVV caused an earlier coalition to collapse in 2010.

The election in the Netherlands came ahead of polls later this year in France and Germany, when right-wing nationalists will also be key players.

France's President Francois Hollande hailed a "clear victory against extremism" and Emmanuel Macron, the presidential candidate tipped to win the election, said it showed "progressives are gaining momentum".

But the secretary general of France's far-right National Front, Nicolas Bay, said he was encouraged by Mr Wilders' gains, calling the result a "success".

The head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office congratulated the Dutch on a "terrific" result. 

And EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker hailed a "vote for Europe, and a vote against extremists".