Voters hand Rutte another chance

His closest rival is no longer the anti-immigration populist Geert Wilders but a new leader, Sigrid Kaag, who appears to have galvanised voters on the left behind her more open and optimistic vision.
Her centrist party D66 has made the greatest gains - characterised as the Kaag-effect.

However, the fringe right-wing Forum for Democracy populists also surpassed expectations. They campaigned to end the lockdown and were the only party to hold rallies during the pandemic.

Mark Rutte will be first in line to find a formation that takes the government over the half way threshold to give them a majority inside this 150-seat parliament.

Sigrid Kaag would bring a lot of seats, but may use her newfound influence to try to steer the government to the left.

Andre Krouwel, a political scientist at the Free University of Amsterdam, said Mark Rutte faced a "minefield" if his current coalition partners, the Christian Democrats (CDA), decided they were too bruised by their losses and opted to "reassess and reinvent and reconnect with the electorate".

This election was widely seen as a referendum on the Dutch government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 16,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the Netherlands, and anti-lockdown protests in the country have turned violent.

A night-time curfew is currently in place, as is a ban on public gatherings in the daytime, in order to try and curb the country's high infection rates.

As a result, most of the election's campaigns were conducted through television debates.

On election day, people cast their votes in sanitised ballot booths, and those classed as clinically vulnerable were able to vote early.

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