Voters in the Netherlands have decisively rejected extremism, giving a razor-thin majority to Prime Minister Mark Rutte's centre-right Liberals. The centre-left Labour party came in close behind. The big loser? Anti-immigrant demagogue Geert Wilders, whose far-right Freedom party got hit big time: the party lost nearly half of its 24 seats in parliament.
The result is an important reversal of the recent worrying rise of extremist parties in Holland, a country once famed for its multicultural tolerance. But it did not deliver a knock-out blow for those pushing the austerity that is choking Europe.
Labour's Diederik Samsom came within two seats of winning the prime minister's office, earning his party a big role in the coalition government that's expected to be formed. The former Greenpeace activist and green energy entrepreneur has allied himself with the growth-oriented approach of Socialist French President Francois Hollande. But Rutte, the incumbent, has supported German Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity-focused response to the euro crisis – despite the overwhelming evidence that it isn't working.
Bottom line? In an election widely seen as a referendum on further European integration, pro-EU parties came out firmly on top. And Dutch voters have rejected xenophobia, to boot. But the debate about how to get Europe growing again – in Holland and the rest of Europe – continues.
Read more: This Reuters analysis was written a few days before the election, but clearly lays out the landscape for the new Dutch government and what it could mean for Europe.
Sources: BBC, NY Times, Avaaz, Reuters