DHAKA: Voters in the Netherlands have backed two pro-European centrist parties, while the anti-immigrant Geert Wilders’ Eurosceptic party took heavy losses.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte claimed victory for his liberal VVD party.
Centre-left Labour came a close second.
Both parties performed better than predicted, seeking a pan-European solution to the eurozone crisis.
They have enough seats for a workable coalition - but would have to reconcile very different views on austerity.
With more than 96% of votes counted, the VVD looked set to take 41 seats in the 150-member lower house, two more than Labour.
Between them, the two parties could theoretically form a new coalition government but their leaders played down such a possibility during the campaign.
The result marked a return to the centre by Dutch voters, following recent elections which produced highly fragmented results and multi-party coalitions.
The Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, which is known for being fiercely anti-Islam, and campaigned on a Eurosceptic platform, looked on course to win 15 seats, well down on its previous 24.
The Socialist Party, which briefly led in opinion polls, came joint third with 15 seats, the same result as at the 2010 election.
BDST: 1554 HRS, SEP 13, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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