Polls for the elections to the European Parliament have opened in The Netherlands marking the starting four days of voting across the 28-member EU.
The UK starts voting half an hour later, making the duo the only member states that vote on a Thursday.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is fighting to retain his position two years after defeating right-wing populist Geert Wilders, who has seen his support slip by 5% to a decade-low, a clear sign that his message has lost some of its momenta.
Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy, with just 2%of the vote in the 2017 general election, is currently polling at 15%. Hours before the polls opened, Rutte and Baudet clashed in a TV debate. If Dutch polls are accurate, Baudet’s Forum could pick up five of the 26 Dutch seats in the 751-seat EU plenary.
During the debate, Rutte said Baudet had a dangerously naive view of Russia after Baudet said he did not think that Moscow presents any geopolitical threat to the West.
Baudet compared outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to Adolf Hitler and Napoleon in their dislike of Russia, stressing that the ” power-hungry of Europe legitimise the centralisation of power in Brussels because of some great enemy (Russia) and I don’t see it”.
“These elections hinge on the question of whether or not the largest party in The Netherlands is one that wants Nexit,” Rutte said while suggesting that if Baudet wins, it will be then possible that The Netherlands would follow the UK and withdraw from the European Union. “It would be bad for our security and stability if such a party became the largest (Dutch party) in the European Parliament,” Rutte added.
Across the bloc, far-right parties are expected again to increase their seats by up to at least 20% in the vote.