Voting takes place in Holland’s closely-watched parliamentary election
Voting for Holland's parliamentary election is in progress Wednesday with attention focused on whether it will be the latest indicator of growing populist sentiment in Europe, with France, Germany and Italy 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 coalition led by Wilders. Voting takes place against the background of a vocal row 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.