AAA  Mar. 15, 2017 4:15 PM ET
The Latest: Exit poll has populists behind in Dutch election
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte jokes with journalists after casting his vote for the Dutch general election in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
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(AP) — The Latest on election day in the Netherlands (all times local):

9:05 p.m.

The Netherlands' main exit poll suggests that anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders had an unexpectedly poor showing during the Dutch elections, finishing far behind Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

For Wilders, the poll was a test whether his fiery nationalist rhetoric caught the imagination of the population. Even if he increased his total in the 150-seat legislature from 15 to 19, it is was a disappointment since he was seeking to become the biggest party.

Instead, the poll suggests Rutte has 31 seats.

A Wilders victory would have further boosted the fortunes of populists across Europe. But now, it was the first indication since the Brexit vote last year, that populists could also be beaten.

Both Rutte and Wilders had defined Wednesday's Dutch parliamentary election as a litmus test for populism in Europe, where France and Germany also face crucial contests in the months ahead.

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9:00 p.m.

The Netherlands' main exit poll suggests that Prime Minister Mark Rutte has won the Dutch elections, easily beating anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders.

For the two-time prime minister Rutte, the poll indicated that an economic recovery and his hard-line handling of a diplomatic dispute with Turkey over the past week has won him support.

The Ipsos polling company gave Rutte's party 31 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, compared to 19 seats for 3 other parties, including that of Wilders. Weeks or months of coalition talks are expected to follow.

The exit poll was conducted at 43 of the 9,300 polling stations across the country Wednesday. It had a margin of error of two percentage points.

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3:45 p.m.

Voter turnout is high in the Netherlands as the country's parliamentary elections unfold under blue skies and warm spring temperatures.

Research bureau Ipsos, which is conducting an exit poll, says that turnout at 1:45 p.m. (1245 GMT; 8:45 a.m. EDT) was 33 percent, up from 27 percent at the same stage in the last parliamentary election.

Major cities also were publishing turnout figures. In Amsterdam, turnout at 1 p.m. (1200 GMT; 8 a.m. EDT) was 25.1 percent, compared to 14.1 percent at the last national elections, in 2012.

In Rotterdam, around 38 percent had voted at 3 p.m. (1400 GMT; 10 a.m. EDT), compared to 30 percent at the last national elections.

National broadcaster NOS reports that extra voting booths are being added at some popular locations, such as a high-rise tower in Amsterdam.

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2:10 p.m.

The Green Left leader says he has a recipe for beating right-wing populism in Europe: stay true to your ideals.

The 30-year-old Jesse Klaver has been the surprise of the Dutch election campaign and polls show his environmentally-friendly and socialist-minded party will do well when results are released Wednesday evening.

Klaver is convinced he has the answers to stop of surge of the far right in Europe.

He said: "What I would say to all my left-wing friends in Europe: don't try to fake the populace. Stand for your principles. Be straight. Be pro-refugee. Be pro-European."

Klaver added: "We're gaining momentum in the polls. And I think that's the message we have to send to Europe. You can stop populism."

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12:45 p.m.

Some Dutch voters are queuing up to cast their ballots on one of the newest pieces of their nation — a recently created island in a large lake north of Amsterdam.

Authorities have put a polling station on the Marker Wadden, an island created last year by Dutch land reclamation experts and intended to become a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Nearby Lelystad municipality is offering free boat trips to the polls for voters in Wednesday's parliamentary elections. Authorities said the voting voyages were so popular they were adding an extra boat to ferry people to and from the remote polling booth, a round trip of more than three hours.

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12 p.m.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says his country's parliamentary elections can show the world that what he calls the "wrong sort of populism" can be stopped.

"It is the third elections after Brexit, after the American elections," Rutte said Wednesday as he cast his vote at a school in The Hague. "We have the upcoming French and German elections. And this is a chance for a big democracy like the Netherlands to make a point — to stop this toppling over of the domino stones of the wrong sort of populism."

Rutte and firebrand anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders have been in the media spotlight in the closing days of campaigning as many look to the Netherlands' vote for a sign of the progress of populism ahead of elections elsewhere in Europe.

Keen to mobilize as many voters for his VVD party as possible, Rutte repeated a warning he has been making in recent days — that despite his party's lead in most polls, the Netherlands could wake up Thursday morning and discover that "Geert Wilders is leading the biggest party."

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11:30 a.m.

A website that assembles data from major pollsters in the Netherlands has published its final tally and it's good news for Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The site Peilingwijzer has Rutte's right-wing VVD party taking between 24 and 28 seats in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament.

Anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders' far-right populist Party for Freedom is in second place with 19-23 seats, narrowly ahead of the Christian Democrats, which are forecast to pick up 19-21 seats. Wilders' party has been losing ground in recent weeks.

The biggest loser looks like Rutte's junior coalition partner since 2012, the Labor Party, which is projected to take 10-12 seats, well below the 38 seats the party won four years ago.

Election results will begin coming in after voting stations close at 9 p.m. (2000 GMT).

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10:20 a.m.

A closing debate featuring leaders of Dutch political parties was far and away the most popular show on television on the eve of the country's election.

The Viewing Research Foundation, which publishes viewing figures, said that nearly 3.3 million people tuned into the debate Tuesday evening, the last major campaign event before voting got underway early Wednesday.

Second on the list was the 8 p.m. news by national broadcaster NOS, which preceded the debate, with 2.5 million viewers.

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9:30 a.m.

Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders says that whatever the result of Wednesday's election, the kind of populist politics he and others in Europe represent will be here to stay.

After casting his ballot in the Hague, Wilder said: "Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle."

He predicted the same feeling would show in elections later this year in France and Germany. He says: "Despite what the elite wants, politicians are getting strong who have a totally different concept of what the people want them to do."

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7:30 a.m.

Polling booths have opened across the nation in Dutch parliamentary elections, a vote that is being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national elections in France and Germany later this year.

Two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte's right-wing VVD party was leading in polls ahead of Wednesday's vote, with the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders a close second.

Rutte has framed the vote as a choice between continuity and chaos, portraying himself as a safe custodian of this nation of 17 million's economic recovery, while casting Wilders as a far-right radical who would not be prepared to take tough decisions were he to gain office.

Associated Press
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