Voters in the Netherlands have rejected far-right candidate Geert Wilders, returning current Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the leader of the biggest party.
Under the Netherlands’ proportional representation system Rutte will now try to form a coalition with his VVD party as leaders, in which Wilders will almost certainly not feature.
The Amsterdam-based NRC Handelsblad newspaper greeted the election result as a “signal to Europe” against right-wing, anti-immigrant populism. Wilders' campaign featured heavy Islamophobia, with verbal attacks on Moroccans as "scum".
Markets greeted the result positively. The spread between Dutch and German 10-year government bonds, which can act as a proxy for political sentiment between the two Eurozone nations, closed to 8.1 basis points, the narrowest since last April.
The euro rose to its highest level in over a month against the US dollar, at $1.0746, before paring some of its gains.
Rutte told supporters: "It is also an evening in which the Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said 'stop' to the wrong kind of populism," according to Reuters.
Wilders greeted the election result as a success, pointing out this PVV had moved from third place to second. He said on Twitter: "Next time we will be nr. 1!"
PVV Second largest party of The Netherlands! https://t.co/tO2UlIgTcy
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) March 16, 2017
The ruling parties lost seats. The main centre-right VVD party in the coalition is expected to win 31 of the parliament’s 150 seats, according to NRC, a loss of 10 seats.
Meanwhile the centre-left PvdA party lost heavily.
Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who was also a central figure in the Eurozone's bailouts of Greece, said it was “a very disappointing result for my PvdA. But the vast majority of voters rejected the extreme populists. Which gives hope for the future.”
Foreign leaders congratulated the Netherlands for the election result.
French President Francois Hollande said it was a "victory over extremism" while foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the Dutch had "stemmed the rise of the far right."
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy added his congratulations to Mark Rutte and hailed the "responsibility" of the Dutch people.