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Exit poll gives Dutch PM Rutte big lead over far-right Wilders

Exit poll gives Dutch PM Rutte big lead over far-right Wilders

Following the latest round of televised debates on Tuesday night in which representatives of 13 parties competed, Prime Minister Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is leading Wilder's Party for Freedom (PVV) by a small margin.

As parliamentary seats are allocated in exact proportion to a party's vote share and no major party wants to be in a coalition with Mr Wilders, he has little chance of entering government however well he performs, our correspondent says.

"We see right-wing extremist parties in the Netherlands, in France, in Italy all arguing they want to have a referendum on European Union membership", Professor Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, told Bloomberg Television.

With upcoming elections in both France and Germany, many are wondering if Dutch voters will - in the words of Rutte in Monday's debate - "stop the domino effect" represented by the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump's victory in the U.S.

A woman presents an election ballot for Dutch general election on March 15 in Rotterdam.

"Rutte has not seen the back of me!" Wilders said in a Twitter reaction.

The Dutch went to vote in huge numbers, with turnout estimated to have reached 82%.

The election in the Netherlands comes ahead of polls in France and Germany over the next half year, when right-wing nationalists will also be key players.

More news: Merkel's Washington visit to meet Trump postponed to March 17

The outgoing prime minister repeated his pledge that he and his Liberal VVD party would not work with Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) "but he still would be able to form a new government" in coalition talks.

Even if his party garnered the most votes, he faced an arduous route to the top job given that the right-wing Rutte, and numerous other parties, had ruled out entering into a coalition with him.

Mr Wilders has led a fiery campaign, pledging to shut down the country's borders, ban the Koran and close mosques.

According to Dutch newspaper Telegraaf, the municipal authorities were made aware of the incident and went to the centre to make sure the flags and other items including leaflets for Diyanet, the Turkish government agency in charge of religion, were removed from the polling area.

The crisis nevertheless gave Rutte an opportunity to refuse to bow to foreign pressure, a stance with widespread backing in the nation. Polls opened at 6:30 am local time and already Wilders, Prime Minister Rutte, and several other politicians have cast their vote.

Rutte has driven through unpopular austerity measures over the last four years, but the Dutch economic recovery has gathered pace and unemployment has fallen fast.

Wilders supporter Robert Housmans says, "The ideas that Mr".

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