POP­ULISM TEST

New Straits Times - - World -

elec­tion to­day, the ge­nie will not go back into the bot­tle. And, this pa­tri­otic rev­o­lu­tion, whether to­day or tomorrow, will stay,” Wilders said.

“I think that with what’s hap­pen­ing in Amer­ica, per­haps in other Euro­pean coun­tries, that once again, the nor­mal peo­ple want to be pa­tri­otic in their own coun­try that has its own sovereignty again.”

Amid the tus­sle be­tween Rutte and Wilders, many of the 12.9 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers were still hes­i­tat­ing be­tween 28 par­ties in the run­ning.

“This is a cru­cial elec­tion for The Nether­lands,” Rutte said as he voted.

“This is a chance for a big democ­racy like The Nether­lands to make a point... to stop this... domino ef­fect of the wrong sort of pop­ulism.”

Rutte is bid­ding for a third term as premier of the coun­try — one of the largest economies in the eu­ro­zone and a found­ing fa­ther of the Euro­pean Union.

Fi­nal polls ap­peared to show Rutte con­sol­i­dat­ing a lead over Wilders, cred­it­ing the VVD with 24 to 28 seats — well down on its 40 out­go­ing seats.

Af­ter months lead­ing the polls, Wilders has slipped re­cently and was seen barely cling­ing onto sec­ond place with be­tween 19 and 22 MPs — up on the 12 MPs his Free­dom Party had be­fore.

Wilders has pledged to close the bor­ders to Mus­lim im­mi­grants, shut mosques, ban sales of the Qu­ran and leave the EU.

“I see this right-wing pop­ulist mak­ing gains and I will not live in such a world,” said Es­ther Zand, 52, who voted for Labour.

“He’s a rather ir­ri­tat­ing gen­tle­man,” she added of Wilders. AFP

AFP PIX

Geert Wilders (left) and Mark Rutte cast­ing their bal­lots in the Dutch gen­eral elec­tion in The Hague yes­ter­day.

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