Pro-European parties sweep Dutch election

 
City A.M. Reporter
DUTCH voters handed pro-European parties a sweeping election victory last night, shunning the radical fringes and dispelling concerns that eurosceptics could gain sway in a core Eurozone country.

Exit polls broadcast as soon as voting ended gave caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right Liberals 41 seats in the 150-member lower house, a slender one-seat lead over the centre-left Labour Party on 40. Pollster Maurice de Hond cautioned that the race for first place was too close to call. Final results were expected early today.

The hard-left Socialists, who oppose austerity and Eurozone bailouts, finished a distant third and gained no ground, while the far-right anti-immigration Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, who campaigned to leave the euro and the European Union, slumped and was set to lose about a third of its seats.

The two radical parties had dominated early stages of the campaign, raising the prospect of a massive protest vote that might paralyse government and make Dutch support for further Eurozone bailouts impossible.

The unexpectedly clear result removed a potential obstacle to efforts to stabilise Europe’s single currency.