THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Dutch political parties are preparing to start what will likely be a long process of coalition talks after Prime Minister Mark Rutte's right-wing VVD party easily won national elections, defying polls that suggested a close race with anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders.
With most votes counted for the 150-seat legislature early Thursday, Rutte's VVD has 33 seats, eight fewer than in 2012. The far-right populist Party for Freedom of Wilders is second with 20 seats, five more than the last time but still a stinging setback.
The Christian Democrats and centrist D66 parties — likely future coalition partners for Rutte — have 19 seats each.
Party leaders are expected to meet early afternoon to discuss first steps in the coalition formation process.