European elections begin with tight Dutch race

Dutch voters have begun four days of voting across the European Union, and exit polls suggest a close race between a left-green alliance and the party of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders.

Right-wing and far-right parties are expected to make big gains in many of the EU’s 27 member states, and that appears to have been confirmed, to some extent, in the Netherlands.

Although the Green-Labour alliance will win more seats in the European Parliament according to exit polls, Wilders’ Freedom Party is on track to make big gains.

But he has not repeated the landslide victory of last November’s general elections.

According to European law, the final results are not published until all countries have voted, on Sunday night. Some 373 million Europeans have the right to vote in the second most important democratic elections in the world after India.

The next European Parliament will have 720 seats and each country will have seats proportional to its population. Germany will have 96, France 81 and Italy 76, while the Netherlands has 31.

The Dutch exit poll will be closely watched across Europe for possible trends emerging elsewhere on the continent, although many voters tend to vote on national issues at least as much as on European politics.

Ireland, Malta and the Czech Republic vote on Friday, and the rest of the EU votes over the weekend.

A shift to the right is widely expected in these elections, with far-right parties aiming for victory in France, Belgium, Austria and Italy.

His opponents are likely to be satisfied with Thursday night’s exit poll, given the performance of the Green/Labour alliance. Geert Wilders’ party came first in last November’s Dutch national election and has reached a cabinet deal with three other parties, although he will not be prime minister.

Any substantial shift to the right in the composition of the European Parliament could affect EU policies on climate change, agriculture and potentially defence.

According to the Ipsos I&O survey of 20,000 to 30,000 Dutch voters in 35 polling stations, the center-left Dutch alliance led by former European Commissioner Frans Timmermans is on track to win eight seats, one more than Wilders’ Freedom Party.

However, the margin of error is such that the race is too close to call. Turnout was estimated at nearly 47%, a five-point increase from five years ago. Before the vote there had been talk of voter fatigue after months of wrangling over the formation of a new government.

Wilders was delighted with the “good result.” It was just an exit poll, but it was clear that the Freedom Party was the big winner, he said, since his party only had one seat in the outgoing European Parliament. Another far-right party, which has been in free fall for months, is about to lose its four seats.

The exit poll is an indication of how polarized the Dutch vote has become, with a pro-European party in favor of climate change policies in the lead, closely followed by Wilders, who wants less Europe and promises a government with “the strongest force.” asylum policy ever.”

However, commentators noted that approximately two-thirds of the votes had been won by pro-EU parties, many of them centrist or liberal.

Migration and asylum were the most important factors for Dutch voters, according to Ipsos, and that is likely to be reflected in much of the rest of Europe.

Voters the BBC spoke to at several polling stations in The Hague on Thursday spoke about security, as well as the wars in Gaza and Ukraine. Many said a stronger EU was essential in the face of global insecurity.

While a quarter of Dutch voters said they were motivated by European politics, 21% said it was domestic politics and 48% said it was a combination of both.

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