Dutch populists win senate vote in blow to PM

101

A Dutch populist party will be the joint biggest in the senate and strip Prime Minister Mark Rutte of his majority following elections that came just days after a suspected terror attack, local media said Thursday.

Controversial eurosceptic Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy party came from nowhere to win most votes in the provincial elections, with 93 percent of ballots counted, the NOS broadcaster said.

The party, which only launched two years ago, will now be the largest in the upper house of parliament along with Rutte’s with 12 seats each, the Dutch news agency ANP said.

The election came just two days after a Turkish-born man was arrested for the tram attack in Utrecht in which three people died.

Baudet — who faced criticism after failing to stop campaigning following the shooting — slammed Rutte’s record on immigration.

“We are being destroyed by the people who are supposed to be protecting us,” the telegenic 36-year-old told a crowd that chanted his name on Wednesday night.

“Successive Rutte governments have left our borders wide open, letting in hundreds of thousands of people with cultures completely different to ours.”

Baudet has previously called for a “Nexit”, or exit from the EU by the Netherlands, but has recently backtracked as the chaos over Britain’s departure from the bloc escalates.

The coalition led by Rutte’s centre-right VVD party is set to collapse from 38 to 31 seats in the 75-seat senate, and will now need support from other parties to pass legislation approved by the lower house.

“We are going to have to get to work,” Rutte told supporters. “We have to talk with other parties so we can continue to lead this country well.”

The final shape of the senate will be determined in May.