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BREAKING NEWS

Dutch Labour party claims surprise victory in the Netherlands

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Dutch Labour party claims surprise victory in the Netherlands
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REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts
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The Dutch Labour party was the surprise winner of Thursday's European elections in the Netherlands, scoring more than 18% of the votes, according to exit polls.

The conservative VVD party, which is the party of the country's PM Mark Rutte, finished second, beating the challenge from the Eurosceptic Forum for Democracy party of populist Thierry Baudet.

The VVD finished at 15%, with Forum for Democracy third on 11%.

This is a surprise result for the Labour party and is expected to boost the candidacy to the European Commission presidency of its lead candidate, Frans Timmermans.

In the days leading up to the vote, polls had put Baudet's populist party ahead, neck and neck alongside Rutte's VVD party. In these polls, the Labour party was polling third at best.

It means the Dutch Labour party has doubled its 2014 result.

The Netherlands was the first country with the UK to vote in the European elections. The Dutch vote, a test of the reality of the appeal of Eurosceptic parties in EU elections, may offer some relief to pro-EU contestants across the bloc.

“I hope that this gives a tailwind for a lot of other social democrats in Europe”, Timmermans said in a reaction to the poll result.

European far-right parties are expected to increase their number of seats in the European Parliament but are not expected to take more than a fifth of seats in total.