THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Latest on the Dutch national elections (all times local):
German political leaders are welcoming the outcome of the Dutch election, which saw Prime Minister Mark Rutte fend off a challenge from right-wing populist Geert Wilders.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called Rutte to congratulate him shortly before midnight.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert quoted Merkel as saying she was "looking forward to continued good cooperation as friends, neighbors, Europeans."
Merkel's chief of staff Peter Altmaier wrote on Twitter: "Netherlands, oh Netherlands, you are a champion."
The foreign ministry commented on Twitter that "the people of the Netherlands have said no to the anti-European populists. This is good, we need a strong Europe. "
Germany holds a general election Sept. 24. in which the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party is expected to enter Parliament for the first time.
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.