THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The latest on election day in the Netherlands (all times local):
Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders says that whatever the result of Wednesday's election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent will be here to stay.
After casting his ballot in the Hague, Wilder said: "Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle."
He predicted the same feeling would show in elections later this year in France and Germany. He says: "Despite what the elite wants, politicians are getting strong who have a totally different concept of what the people want them to do."
Polling booths have opened across the nation in Dutch parliamentary elections, a vote that is being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national elections in France and Germany later this year.
Two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte's right-wing VVD party was leading in polls ahead of Wednesday's vote, with the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders a close second.
Rutte has framed the vote as a choice between continuity and chaos, portraying himself as a safe custodian of this nation of 17 million's economic recovery, while casting Wilders as a far-right radical who would not be prepared to take tough decisions were he to gain office.