Mainstream pro-European parties look set to dominate the Dutch parliamentary election on Wednesday, dispelling concerns that radical eurosceptics might gain sway in a core eurozone country and push to quit the European Union or flout its budget rules. But the Netherlands is likely to remain an awkward, tough-talking member of the single currency area, strongly resisting transfers to eurozone debtors, regardless of whether prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals or the centre-left Labour party of Diederik Samsom win the most seats. Opinion polls on Tuesday showed the Liberals and Labour on 36 seats each or the Liberals fractionally in front, with the hard-left Socialists and the far-right anti-immigration Freedom party fading in third and fourth place respectively. That makes it more likely, though not certain, that Rutte, with the strongest international profile, will stay as prime minister.
Early morning commuters at Amsterdam’s central train station were among the first to vote. Maike Stukkeheim, an artist, said: “I had a hard time choosing who to vote for, in the end I voted Socialists. I don’t particularly like them but I wanted to vote left. I think it’s (the political landscape0 getting more and more rightwing, more conservative.”
The final days of campaigning turned into a two-horse race between Rutte, 45, a former Unilever human resources manager dubbed the “Teflon” prime minister because of his ability to brush off disasters, and the energetic Samsom, 41, an ex-Greenpeace activist whose debating flair wowed voters. Both parties have played down talk that they will end up in coalition, together with one or two smaller parties, but parliamentary arithmetic suggests this is the most probable outcome given a highly fragmented political landscape. But about a fifth of the 12.5 million voters say they are undecided, leaving room for surprises.