Fiery right-wing leader Geert Wilders' resignation ploy backfires
Agence France-Presse in The Hague
Far-right leader Geert Wilders, who suffered spectacular losses in Wednesday's Dutch election, precipitated his own defeat by collapsing the previous government.
The Netherlands' "best known politician outside the country", thanks to his hard-line anti-Muslim stance, Wilders appealed to local voters on a populist platform taking aim at the "bureaucrats in Brussels".
"The September 12 election is going to be a big referendum over everything that has to do with the EU," he said as he launched his Party for Freedom's (PVV) election campaign in The Hague. "The European Union is, as far as we are concerned, the subject on which the Netherlands wants an answer."
"Their Brussels, our Netherlands", was the slogan of the platinum-haired politician, whose party is now predicted to win just 13 seats, barely half its previous tally of 24, according to exit polls.
His party's programme promised voters it would not pay "one more cent to Brussels" - and curb immigration, particularly from Muslim and eastern Europe.
Wilders lost some of his shine after walking out of talks with the governing coalition of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, which Wilders' party had until April backed at arms' length. The move led to the collapse of Rutte's coalition with the Christian Democrats.