Balkenende clings to power as Dutch head for uneasy coalition
Jan Peter Balkenende, the centre-right Prime Minister of the Netherlands, is set to cling to power after indecisive election results which are likely to produce an uneasy left-right coalition.
Mr Balkenende's Christian Democrats finished ahead of the centre-left Labour Party with whom they are likely to end up in government though even the two biggest parties are not expected to have a clear majority between them.
The left-wing and Eurosceptic Socialist Party emerged as one of the other big winners, boosting their current nine seats to 25. Meanwhile, Geert Wilders was the only one of a clutch of populist anti-immigration campaigners to perform well. TV predictions suggested the Christian Democrats would win 40 seats while the Labour Party took 33.
With no obvious combination of parties holding the 76 seats to secure a majority, the Netherlands faces a protracted period of political horsetrading. Coalition negotiations in the country have been known to last for months
Despite his notorious lack of charisma Mr Balkenende has achieved a remarkable comeback after being deeply unpopular. His centre-right coalition, which included the Liberal VVD party, has taken a tough line on immigration, personified by the minister responsible, Rita Verdonk. Last week she announced plans to ban the burqa if re-elected. Up to that point, the twin issues of immigration and integration had featured little in the election campaign. But both subjects are highly sensitive in the Netherlands following the murder in 2004 of Theo Van Gogh, the controversial film-maker whose work criticised Islam.
In a last-ditch appeal to voters, 50-year-old Mr Balkenende, highlighted the economic recovery in the Netherlands arguing: "We were behind in Europe and now we are really one of the front-runners. I am very proud of the results and I really hope that people will recognise this and that we can go on with these successful type of policies."
The Labour leader, 43-year-old Wouter Bos, was turned away from a polling station after failing to present the correct voter card, and had to return later to vote.
The opposition leader hoped for a late surge of support from voters of immigrant origin, tired of the hardline policies championed by the centre-right coalition. But large numbers of those surveyed have declared themselves undecided.
Mr Bos, a fierce critic of the government's social policy, has promised to grant citizenship to thousands of people whose asylum applications have been rejected and who have been living illegally in the Netherlands.
The election, originally scheduled for May 2007, was called after the centre-right coalition collapsed in June in a row over the government's handling of the disputed citizenship of the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ms Hirsi Ali, a critic of Islam was threatened with the loss of her Dutch passport after she admitted lying on her asylum application.
The issue of integration of minorities came into sharp focus in the Netherlands in 2002 after the murder of the maverick anti-immigration campaigner Pim Fortuyn. In the wake of his death in 2002, his party won 26 seats and took part in the coalition, though that government soon collapsed amid vicious infighting.
Christian Democrats (CDA) 41 seats (-3)
Labour Party 32 (-10)
Socialists 26 (+17)
People's Party for Freedom of Democracy (VVD) 22 (-6)
Christian Union 6 (+3)
Others 23 (-1)
76 seats needed for a majority
- 1 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
Boston Marathon runner's search for mystery man she kissed ends with letter from his wife
Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show
£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...
£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...