Dutch Voters Split, and Right Surges

Elkes Schouten wears traditional Dutch clothing as she casts her vote.

From Stephen Castle and Steven Erlanger, the New York Times:  After the first election in a euro-zone country since the European economic crisis, Dutch voters found themselves divided politically on Thursday and surprised by the surge in popularity of an anti-immigrant party.

The pro-business Dutch Liberal Party had 31 seats and the center-left Labor Party 30, with 98 percent of the votes counted. But the far-right Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders demanded a share of government after it came in third with 24 seats, more than doubling its representation in the 150-member Parliament.

“We want to be part of the new government,” declared Mr. Wilders, whose party wants to end immigration from Muslim countries and ban new mosques.

“The impossible has happened,” he told a party gathering. “The Netherlands chose more security, less crime, less immigration and less Islam. …”

The Christian Democrats, who led the last four coalitions, were punished by voters, winning only 21 seats, down from 41. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, 54, announced that he was quitting as the leader of the party and as a legislator.

Among the other parties, the Socialist Party got 15 seats, down from 25, the Green GroenLinks and centrist D66 made gains to get 10 each, and the Christian Union will be holding five seats, having lost one. …

The election was called in February when the Labor Party withdrew from the government, refusing to approve plans to keep Dutch troops in Afghanistan.  (photo: Reuters)

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