Netherlands conservative interim leader Mark Rutte seemed set to form a coalition with the Labour Party today, following a shock election victory.
The two main pro-EU parties took surprisingly big leads over the Eurosceptic Socialist Party after earlier opinion polls had indicated that the Socialists had drawn near or even overtaken them. However, they remained stuck on 15 seats.
But with 98 per cent of votes counted Mr Rutte's VVD surged to 41 seats in the 150-member Dutch Parliament and may form a two-party coalition with the Labour Party of Diederik Samsom, which pushed up its tally of seats to 39.
"This is a strong boost," Mr Rutte claimed. "We have to get to work to make sure a stable cabinet is formed as soon as possible."
Mr Rutte's VVD increased its seats in parliament by a quarter despite backing a programme of cuts and austerity.
However, although both Mr Rutte and Mr Samsom are committed to Europe, they see different solutions to the debt crisis, which could hinder the quick formation of a new government.
Mr Rutte wants to stay the cuts-driven course which has aligned him with German Chancellor Angela Merkel but Mr Samsom is calling for change.
The Labour leader is politically closer to French President Francois Hollande, who is trying to fight the crisis with job-boosting programmes.
The only saving grace of the result was a stark rejection of far-right populist Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party seemed likely to lose a humiliating nine seats, dropping his share of the seats to 15.
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