Wilders, a Dutch nationalist, is aiming for victory as the Netherlands begins voting in the EU

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) – Dutch nationalist Geert WILDERS looked to be on track for new gains in Thursday’s election of the European Parliament held across 27 EU member countries. The Netherlands kicked off the four-day voting process.

In a nationwide poll conducted on the day before the election, Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV), which is anti-immigration, tied for the first spot with the Labour/GreenLeft coalition. Both were projected to win 8 seats.

Wilders would have a major victory, as he failed to win a seat at the last EU elections in 2019.

Four years ago, Labour and GreenLeft each won six and three seats. Both left-wing parties are running on the same ticket in this election, but they will be divided into separate factions after the voting.

Wilders has been riding a wave in support in the Netherlands. His promises to crackdown on asylum migrants already won him a big victory at the general elections in November of last year.

After months of tension, the 60 year old political veteran secured a deal last month with three other conservatives to form a government of right-wingers. The new government is expected to take office by the end this month.

This coalition has said that it will take a hard stance at Brussels. It wants exemptions from EU rules on asylum and the environment, and to see a substantial reduction in the Dutch contribution towards the EU budget.

Wilders has been saying for years that the Dutch should leave their union. However, he changed his tone before this election. He also dropped his intention to hold a referendum about the country’s EU status.

He said that his party will now seek to limit the EU’s powers within the parliament. This could be done by joining forces with the far-right parties of Giorgia Le Pen and Marine Le Pen, the leaders from France and Italy.

A Dutch exit poll will be released when the voting ends in the Netherlands on Thursday night at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT). The results will be released Sunday, 2100 GMT, after the polls close in all member countries.

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