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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dutch Landslide Extends European Swing to Right

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Murdered populist Pim Fortuyn's upstart party stormed to second place in the Dutch elections as the ruling center-left was routed in the latest example of Europe's dramatic shift to the right.

Voters ditched Prime Minister Wim Kok's government in a landslide swing to the conservative Christian Democrats on Wednesday in a country better known for its tolerance of euthanasia, gay marriage and prostitution than for political instability.

The Labor party, in coalition for eight years with the free-market VVD and D66 liberals, suffered its worst defeat since World War II in a momentous election dominated by voter concerns over crime, immigration and public services.

The Christian Democrats, or CDA, won decisively, taking 43 of parliament's 150 seats, according to results announced early Thursday. CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende, set to head a new coalition, said the victory had surpassed all expectations.

"It's been an unbelievable evening. The CDA is back," Balkenende told jubilant supporters in The Hague. "In just a few months we have shown the vitality of Christian democracy."

The Pim Fortuyn List, or LPF, only three months old and still in mourning for its charismatic founder murdered nine days before the election, came second with 26 seats on its election debut.

All three ruling parties hemorrhaged votes, extending a Europe-wide trend that has seen left-leaning governments tumble in the past 12 months in Italy, Denmark, Portugal and France, as support grows for the populist far right.

Formed in March by the openly gay, shaven-headed former academic, Fortuyn's anti-immigrant party gasped at its own success in the most astonishing Dutch election in living memory.

"It's a wonderful result but there is no real joy. Today we feel like orphans. We've lost our teacher," LPF spokesman Mat Herben told supporters in a chic hotel in the Hague, standing by a framed portrait of Fortuyn and his two pet spaniels.

An animal rights activist has been charged with killing Fortuyn.

The once mighty Dutch Labor party, credited with social reform, job creation and steady economic growth, lost almost half its seats to tie with the VVD for third place on 23 seats.

Wim Kok looked crestfallen at the magnitude of his party's defeat. His successor as party leader, Ad Melkert, announced he would step down to make way for new blood to rebuild the party.

A linchpin in 20th-century Dutch governments until 1994, the CDA boasts it was in power longer than the Soviet Communist Party. Balkenende has been called "dull but 200 percent reliable."

Asked if he would team up with Fortuyn's party, the former economics professor said: "Looking at the results, the voters have given a clear signal. But we'll have to discuss proposals and stability, especially with LPF."

The small Socialist Party was also a winner, almost doubling its seats to nine.