Dutch Voters Give Overwhelming Confidence to Mark Rutte, He Has Energy for Another ten YearsElections | March 18, 2021, Thursday // 10:06| views
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte claimed an “overwhelming” victory in elections on Wednesday, vowing to use his fourth term in office to rebuild the country after the coronavirus pandemic.
Already one of Europe’s longest serving leaders after ten years in office, exit polls showed Rutte’s liberal party clearly winning the most seats in parliament after the socially distanced three-day vote.
The left-leaning, pro-EU D66 party, which has challenged Rutte’s European policy as part of his current government, is set to surge into second place, making its leader, Sigrid Kaag, the most influential woman in present-day Dutch politics.
“The voters of the Netherlands have given my party an overwhelming vote of confidence,” a smiling Rutte told reporters in parliament.
Rutte said that “not everything has gone well in the last 10 years”, including his resignation in January over a scandal in which people were racially profiled and then falsely accused of scamming child benefits.
“But of course the main issue also on the table for the next years is how to rebuild the country going forward after corona.”
He added that “I have the energy for another ten years.”
The election is widely seen as a referendum on the government’s performance during the coronavirus crisis.
The Netherlands is one of the first major European Union economies to hold elections during the COVID-19 crisis, and voting was held over three days to prevent spreading of the virus, which has killed more than 16,000 people and infected 1.1 million in the nation of 17 million.
The Netherlands is currently under its most stringent health measures yet including the curfew and closure of bars and restaurants.
Millions of masked voters cast their ballots in pandemic conditions at museums, churches and bike-through polling stations on the third and final day of the elections, which have been dominated by the government’s response to the pandemic.
A limited number of voting centres had been open on Monday and Tuesday for the elderly and vulnerable, with voters also allowed out after the curfew, before polls opened for everyone on Wednesday.
By the end of the afternoon turnout was 81 percent, compared to 82 percent four years ago. However, in this election elderly voters were permitted to use mail-in ballots, and polls opened two days early to allow for social distancing.
Counting votes at municipalities is expected to last through the night.
Roughly 13 million voters were eligible to pick from dozens of parties contesting spots.
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