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Voting begins in Holland's closely-watched parliamentary election

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 2:36
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DEBKAfile was founded by a team of journalists in June 2000 as an independent Internet Web site, providing an intelligence and security news service. March 15, 2017, 11:28 AM (IDT)

Voting for Holland’s parliamentary election began Wednesday with attention focused on whether it will be the latest indicator of growing populist sentiment in Europe, with France and Germany scheduled to hold general elections later this year. It is the first major European election of 2017.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte faces a stiff challenge from right-wing leader Geert Wilders who has an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam agenda. Wilders, whose campaign slogan is “Let’s Make the Netherlands Ours Again”, has said he will close the country’s mosques, ban the Koran and withdraw from the EU if his party forms the next government. 
Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was reported to be slightly ahead of Wilders’ Party of Freedom over the last few days.
There are 28 parties and 1,114 candidates vying for 150 parliamentary seats. The party with the most votes usually forms a coalition government. A number of parties have already said they will not join a government led by Wilders.
The election also comes amid heightening tensions between Holland and Turkey. Holland has refused to allow Turkish ministers to stage political rallies on Dutch territory ahead of a referendum by Turkey on the expansion of President Tayyip Erdogan’s executive powers. 

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