Far-right Party for Freedom took 16.9 percent of Dutch votes, and four seats in the European Parliament, according to exit polls. Anti-Islam party chief Geert Wilders currently faces a hate-speech trial.
AFP - Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom was the big winner in European voting, taking 16.9 percent of the ballot and four seats in its first-ever campaign, exit polls showed Friday.
The rise of Wilders -- who has described the Koran as fascist, receives 24-hour protection following death threats, faces a hate speech trial at home and has been barred from entering Britain -- came at the expense of governing coalition partners.
The anti-Islamisation standard-bearer's PVV party was second only to Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrats (CDA), which dropped nearly five percentage points to 20 percent and lost two of its seven European parliament seats.
The CDA's governing coalition partner, the labour PvdA, was the biggest loser -- taking 12.2 percent compared with 23.6 percent in 2004 and down four seats to three, according to 92.1 percent of votes counted.
The third party in the government coalition, the small ChristenUnie, was at 6.9 percent of the vote, up from 5.9 percent in 2004, and projected to take two seats.
The opposition centrist and pro-European D66 was at 11.3 percent, up from 4.25 percent in 2004. The environmental Groenlinks garnered 8.9 percent, up from 7.4 and the far-left SP was steady at 7.1 percent.
"This is a fantastic result," Wilders told national television. "Many people clearly yearn for a different Netherlands and have had enough of this big Europe.
"This is but the beginning, we will only get bigger. I hope we will do even better in national elections and that we become the biggest party in the Netherlands."
Wilders said four out of 25 Dutch seats in the 27-nation, 736-seat parliament would be the equivalent of one in six in the Dutch chamber.
Asked if he could see himself governing in partnership with Wilders, Balkenende, who offered his congratulations, said simply: "This was about Europe. We will judge on the coalition when national elections are held (in 2011), not now."
Labour PvdA leader Bos added that "the parties that lost the most were those who supported Europe... who defended Europe against a lot of scepticism. It appears that the voters found that unconvincing."
Wilders had stressed he would not take up a seat, having put forward a relative unknown, Barry Madlener, to head his party's candidate list.
The PVV opposes the European parliament's very existence, with Wilders having told a newspaper the party was taking part to "bring it down from the inside."
Exit polls showed a voter turnout of 36.5 percent, down from 39.1 percent in the last election in 2004.
ANP news agency said all results would be available around 0600 GMT and final results would be published on Thursday.
The Netherlands, with nearly 13 million registered voters, and Britain were the first countries to vote in polls being held across the bloc until Sunday. Wilders, 45, gained international notoriety with attacks on Islam that culminated in the release last year of a highly-publicised film, "Fitna," which drew the ire of many Muslim countries.
Barred from entering Britain to stop him spreading "hatred and violent messages", his hard line on immigration is also seen as responsible for a sharp rise in backing on national voting intentions.
Wilders' party gained nine seats in the Dutch parliament in 2006, compared to 41 for the CDA, but opinion polls have predicted closer to 30 seats for both parties were elections to be held now.
The PVV entered the EU parliament campaign on the ticket "More Netherlands, less Europe," and also opposes the entry of Turkey into the 27-nation bloc.
Wilders has stated that "Islam is the Netherlands' biggest problem," campaigning for a total ban of the burka and of the Koran, which he has compared to Hitler's "Mein Kampf."
He seeks a halt to immigration from Muslim countries and the construction of mosques in the Netherlands.
Wilders has said he wants the EU elections to serve as a sort of referendum of Dutch support for the continental bloc.
Sixty-two percent of the Dutch electorate voted "no" in a 2005 referendum on a pre-Lisbon Treaty European Union constitution also rejected by France.
Date created : 2009-06-05