WORLD Dutch PM Rutte claims victory in COVID-19-dominated elections

WORLD

Dutch PM Rutte claims victory in COVID-19-dominated elections

Global Times

18:00, March 18, 2021

Reelected Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reacts to the exit polls of the House of Representatives' elections in The Hague on Wednesday. (Photo: AFP)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte claimed an "overwhelming" victory in elections on Wednesday, vowing to use his fourth term in office to rebuild the country after the coronavirus pandemic.

Already one of Europe's longest serving leaders after 10 years in office, exit polls showed Rutte's liberal party clearly winning the most seats in parliament after the socially distanced three-day vote.

The pro-EU D66 party, which has challenged Rutte's European policy as part of his current government, is set to surge into second place, while anti-Islam leader Geert Wilders lost ground to move into third, public broadcaster NOS predicted.

Populist leader Thierry Baudet's party did unexpectedly well on the back of COVID-19-sceptic votes in a country that recently suffered its worst riots in decades after the imposition of a coronavirus curfew.

"The voters of the Netherlands have given my party an overwhelming vote of confidence," a smiling Rutte said.

Rutte said that "not everything has gone well in the last 10 years," including his resignation in January over a scandal in which people were racially profiled and then falsely accused of scamming child benefits.

"But of course the main issue also on the table for the next years is how to rebuild the country going forward after corona."

The Netherlands has recorded more than 1.1 million infections and 16,000 deaths, and is currently under its most stringent health measures yet including the curfew and closure of bars and restaurants.

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