Campaigning for the Dutch election began on Wednesday.
The Netherlands, a country of 17 million people that relies heavily on foreign trade, rejected the European Constitution in 2005.
Last year, it voted down a treaty that would have established closer EU ties with Ukraine.
Why is the vote significant?
Observers are predicting it will test the anti-establishment sentiment that swept the UK out of the EU and Donald Trump into the US presidency.
Who is Geert Wilders?
The far-right frontrunner is a eurosceptic, anti-immigration fan of Donald Trump.
In December, he was convicted of inciting discrimination for leading supporters chanting they wanted “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Moroccans in the country.
Wilders has dubbed the March 15 parliamentary election the start of a “patriotic spring” in Europe.
French and German voters go to the polls in May and September.
Will Wilders get elected?
Unlikely, it is said.
Wilders and his Party for Freedom have led in opinion polls for most of the past two years.
However, the fragmented political landscape in the Netherlands means a coalition government of four or more parties is all but inevitable.
Wilders’ main rival, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the conservative VVD Party, is banking on a strengthening economic recovery to restore popularity lost during the austerity years of 2012-2014.
Wilders’ party is expected to get 20 percent of the popular vote, compared to 16 percent for Rutte.
On Wednesday, they announced they will face off head-to-head in a televised debate on March 13.
A simple majority is normally all that is required to govern.
All but one party has ruled out sharing power with Wilders, whose policies are seen as offensive and occasionally unconstitutional.
Nul procent, Geert. NUL procent.— Mark Rutte (@markrutte) February 12, 2017
So what will happen if Wilders wins?
If Wilders’ PVV party finishes first but is unable to form a government, Rutte will be left trying to forge a centrist coalition with several parties that share little more than opposition to Wilders.
In that case, “we will stay put and manage the country until there is a new coalition,” Finance Minister Jeroen Dijisselbloem said on Tuesday.
How many parties are there?
- 31 parties competing for votes
- 14 likely to win at least one seat in 150-member parliament
- Next three largest have no more than 10-11 percent of the vote
- Election is March 15
What the polls say
A poll by Motivaction suggests more than 61 percent of respondents see Dutch politicians as “elitist, unreliable and dishonest.”
37 percent of likely voters say they have not decided who to vote for.
What they are saying
“The overwhelming majority of Dutchmen basically do not vote for Wilders,” – Kristof Jacobs, a university teacher from Nijmegen.
“I find it difficult to make a decision,” said Renee Keijzer from Volendam. “So much has happened in the world that it is hard to position yourself properly.”
Read more about the Dutch elections here
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