THE HAGUE, March 16 (Xinhua) -- The Netherlands woke up Thursday with Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party nabbing the most parliamentary seats, with 95 percent of the votes counted.
According to the preliminary results the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD of Prime Minister Mark Rutte came on top winning 33 seats.
The far-right populist Party for Freedom PVV lead by Geert Wilders finished second with 20 seats, while the Christian Democrats CDA and the leftist liberals D66 followed with each gaining 19 seats.
The Dutch Electoral Council will announce the official results on March 21.
"I am glad our message to keep the Netherlands stable, safe and prosperous reached the Dutch people," Dutch PM Mark Rutte reacted in his victory speech in The Hague.
The green lefties GroenLinks and the Socialist Party SP both collected 14 seats, while outgoing government party PvdA (Labor) suffered a historic loss. It currently holds 29 seats in the 150-member House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, but it only won nine this time.
In the polls of late December last year the anti-Islam party and anti-Europe PVV was predicted to be the largest winner in the elections, but in the past few months the VVD outperformed the PVV in the polls.
PVV's failure to come on top in the elections is viewed a halt to far-right populism in the Netherlands and a possible signal towards the elections in France and Germany later this year. Still, Wilders' party did gain five more seats, although it was not the 30 seats he was vying for.
"After the Brexit and Donald Trump winning the U.S. Presidential elections everyone was looking at us," Rutte said. "On this evening the Dutch people said stop to the wrong kind of populism."
"I would rather have won," Wilders told reporters in The Hague. "But at the same time the VVD lost seats and we gained. We are the winners of the elections. Too bad we are not the biggest party, but it is a result we can be proud of."
The winning party VVD will get the chance to start forming a new government, the third government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The most logical option is his preferred coalition with CDA and D66, but he needs at least one party more, one of the three leftist GroenLinks, SP or PvdA or a possible addition by the Christian parties CU (5 seats) and maybe SGP (3).
A coalition with the middle-Christian party CU would be the easiest option, but this combination only has a narrow majority of 76 seats according to the provisional results.
As a major loser and outgoing government party, the PcdA would not be a logical choice and SP has already stated it will not govern with the VVD. GroenLinks and VVD is also a difficult combination in terms of their views.
A long period of negotiation probably lies ahead, which is not uncommon in Dutch political history. The last government took 54 days to form, but the Dutch record after World War II was 208 days in 1977.
Voter turnout was around 79 percent according to a preliminary prognosis, higher than the 74.6 percent of 2012.