Despite leading the polls, far-right Geert Wilders suffered a defeat in the Dutch elections.
The elections today (15 March) were the first in a set of closely watched votes across the European mainland.
And it seems the first country in the world to introduce marriage equality is holding on to its liberal character.
According to the exit polls, as well as the first vote counts, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) came out on top again.
The poll suggests the VVD won 31 out of Parliament’s 150 seats.
Closely following them are the Christian Democrats, the Democrats 66, and Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration, anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV); all three won 19 seats.
The Green-Left got 16 seats and the Labour Party, which recorded a history loss, won 9.
A first prediction, based on vote counts of small municipalities, suggested the VVD won 33 seats, the Conservative CDA 25 and the PVV got 18.
Dominique van der Heyde, parliamentary journalist with the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation (NOS), suggested the Netherlands’ political deadlock with Turkey might have driven votes towards the VDD.
Prior to the vote, Wilders had been leading the polls and was favorite to win the election.
This was despite him being convicted of inciting hatred against immigrants in late 2016.
But unlike many other populist parties, like France’s Front National or Germany’s Alternative for Germany, his PVV does not oppose LGBTI rights. The opposite is the case.
During his campaign, Wilders gained support from the LGBTI community.
In their 2010 party program, they wanted to push for stronger punishment of crimes against Jews and the LGBTI community; they also wanted to protect the community’s freedom as an essential element of Dutch culture.
During the current electoral period, Wilders anti-Islamic sentiments, and the perceived threat to the LGBTI community, gained him further support.
Wilders was often compared to President Donald Trump.
He promised to ‘make the Netherlands ours again’, wanted to restrict immigration, withdraw from the EU and ‘de-Islamize’ the Netherlands.
Soon after the exit polls were released, he tweeted his thanks and said ‘Rutte is nowhere near rid of me’.
And people were keen to vote, too: the Netherlands registered a turnout of 82%, which is deemed one of the highest in decades. At the last parliamentary elections, 75%
Now Rutte has to build a Coalition to reach the 76 seats his party needs to govern.
Dutch politics are highly fragmented, with lots of smaller parties gaining seats in Parliament.