The Labour party of European Commissioner Frans Timmermans on Thursday won a surprise victory in a Dutch election for European Parliament, an exit poll showed, easily beating a Eurosceptic challenger who had been topping the polls.
The leading social democrat candidate to head the EU Commission, Timmermans propelled his pro-European party to an upset win, taking more than 18% of the vote.
The upstart far right Forum for Democracy of nationalist Thierry Baudet, which had been neck and neck in polls alongside Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservatives, finished third at 11%, the exit poll showed.
Labour doubled its 2014 showing and beat opinion polls, most of which showed it finishing third at best.
The Dutch vote was a first test of the appeal of populist and Eurosceptic parties contesting elections across the bloc through Sunday.
“I hope that this gives a tailwind for a lot of other social democrats in Europe”, Timmermans said in a reaction to the poll result.
Irish and Czech voters are headed to the polls on Friday (24 May) for Day 2 of EU election votes.