THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right party decisively beat back a challenge from anti-immigrant populist candidate Geert Wilders in the nation’s parliamentary elections Wednesday, exit polls showed, in a closely watched vote many saw as a key test of the appeal of Donald Trump-style populism in Western Europe.
With about half the vote counted, Mr. Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) was projected to finish first with 32 seats, while Mr. Wilders‘ nationalist, anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) significantly trailed in third place with 19 seats in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament. The CDA Christian Democrats were projected to win 20 seats.
Those numbers were consistent with exit polls earlier in the day, numbers that would leave the PVV with almost no hope of entering a governing coalition.
Meanwhile, the VVD’s former coalition partner, the leftist Labor Party, dropped 29 seats, from 38 to 9, an unprecedented loss in Dutch politics.
Mr. Rutte thus gets first crack at putting together a new governing coalition, though weeks of bargaining loom in a country with dozens of political parties.
While much of the world’s attention focused on Mr. Wilders‘ campaign and its potential impact on looming votes in France and Germany Wednesday’s biggest winner was the left-wing, pro-EU Greens, projected to triple their bloc in parliament to 12 seats.