AMSTERDAM - Far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who is notorious for attacking Islam and Muslims, has emerged the biggest loser in the country's general election after pro-Europe parties dominated the vote.
I would have rather stood here with good news, but the voter has spoken: we have lost badly, Wilders told supporters.
With more than 98 percent of votes counted, Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) lost nine seats after his share fell from 24 to only 15.
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Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberals won 41 seats, giving them a two-seat lead over the center-left Labour Party on 39 seats, Reuters reported.
"We fought this election house by house, street by street, city by city, and I'm proud, Rutte said overnight after Labour leader Diederik Samsom conceded defeat.
While the Liberals and Labour have played down talk of forming a coalition, the two parties would together command a governing majority in parliament.
That would be a rare outcome in a country where three- or four-member coalitions are not unusual and coalition talks often take several months.
(These two) parties have become so big that neither can form a majority cabinet with other parties," said sociologist Paul Schnabel in a column for business daily Het Financieele Dagblad.
"That also makes it difficult because they are condemned to each other. A forced marriage, which usually has little blessing."
Rutte's government was known throughout Europe for its hardline stance on fiscal discipline, demanding austerity from indebted countries on the euro zone's fringes and insisting the Netherlands meet its own European Union deficit targets.
But his cabinet collapsed after Wilders withdrew the support of his party, the third-largest in the previous parliament, over opposition to EU demands for budget cuts.
Despite his defeat, Wilders kept his defiant tone of fighting against immigration and the European Union.
We will never give up, he said.
In his party campaign for election, Wilders focused on leaving the Euro and the European Union.
Though many voters approved Wilders' skepticism over the euro, his call to withdraw from the European Union entirely was not acceptable.
Wilders is notorious for his rants against Islam and Muslims.
Since storming onto the political scene in 2004, Wilders has influenced Dutch immigration policy and set the tone of public debate, whether on Muslims and burqas or bailouts and the euro, in what once would have been regarded as politically incorrect language.
He has called for banning the Noble Qur'an, describing the Muslim holy book as fascist.
In 2008, Wilders released a 15-minute documentary accusing the Qur'an of inciting violence.
His party's anti-Islam campaigns, however, have helped it make its biggest gains since Wilders has founded it in 2006.Muslims, mostly from Turkish and Moroccan origin, make up one million of the Netherlands's 16 million population.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net