Europe is preparing for a series of elections across the continent in the coming months that could determine the future of the European Union amid rising anti-establishment movements. The first of these will take place in the Netherlands next week as ...
Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Islam candidate who has lost ground in recent polls ahead of elections March 15, vowed to pull ahead of his nearest rival, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and win the most votes.â€œWeâ€™ve done quite well, so I am afraid that you will be in for a nice surprise on Wednesday,â€ Wilders said SaturdayÂ before handing out leaflets in Valkenburg, 215 kilometers (134 miles) south of Amsterdam. â€œOther parties are copying some of our ideas and I hope at the end of the day on Wednesday people chose for the original and not the copy.â€Geert WildersPhotographer: Jasper Juinen/BloombergWildersâ€™s support fell by a seat, to 22, while Rutteâ€™s Liberal Party VVD would win 24, according to a Peil.nl poll published Friday. The Christian Democrats gained a seat to tie Wilders at 22. Wilders led by as many as 12 seats at the start of the year. Wildersâ€™s anti-European Union Freedom Party, known as PVV in Dutch, has led Rutteâ€™s Liberals for much of the campaign. In a Kantar poll on Thursday, Rutte had 26 seats, two more than Wilders.
With support for Wilders ebbing, the polls show five parties in contention to place first with less than a week before the election. Wilders is set to face Rutte at a EenVandaag television debate Monday at 6:30 p.m., followed by a debate with 14 party leaders Tuesday from 8:30 p.m.
A strong showing for Wilders -- who has pledged to call a referendum to leave the European Union as among his first acts if elected prime minister -- would put pressure on any governing coalition to adopt a more skeptical stance toward the bloc. The outcome would risk souring ties between the EU and one of its founding members, and add to the anti-EU sentiment spreading from France to Germany.Rutte has warned of a surprise result next Wednesday, citing the U.K.â€™s June vote to leave the EU and Donald Trumpâ€™s election in the U.S.â€œI fear Brexit. When I went to sleep all predictions were it would not happen and at 6 a.m. the next morning Brexit happened,â€ Rutte told news program Nieuwsuur Friday. â€œAnd the same with Trump: CNN still said Hillary Clinton would be the next U.S. president. I warn of that. â€
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