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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ruling Dutch party claims victory in elections

The result sets the stage for the VVD and Labor — both pro-Europe parties — to forge a two-party ruling coalition with Rutte returning for a second term as prime minister.

The election was cast as a virtual referendum on Europe amid the continent's crippling debt crisis, but the result was a stark rejection of the most radical critic of the EU, anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party was forecast to lose 8 seats, dropping to 16.

Wilders' calls to ditch the euro may have been too radical for voters, or he may have lost support for walking out of talks with Rutte in April to hammer out an austerity package to rein in the Dutch budget deficit.

[...] they also support exceptions or even bailouts for fiscally stressed countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy — as long as they adhere to externally mandated cost-cutting targets and labor market reforms.

By not flocking to Wilders or the euro-skeptical Socialist Party, Dutch voters signaled at least an acceptance of the importance of a healthy Europe: in national polls, voters said that no election issue was nearly as important as the state of the Dutch economy and the effect Europe's sovereign debt crisis is having on it.

For the first time since the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical, the election focused on economic policies such as mortgage deductions and the retirement age, rather than Muslim integration and immigrant crime.