10 Jun 2010

Dutch PM resigns after party polls fourth

6:23 pm on 10 June 2010

A centre-right party has taken a narrow lead in the Netherlands' election, with the Liberal Party (VVD) winning one seat more than Labour.

The BBC reports with almost 90% of votes counted, the VVD had 31 of 150 seats, and appeared to be heading for coalition talks.

Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party won 24 seats, its best-ever finish.

Outgoing PM Jan Peter Balkenende resigned his seat after his Christian Democrats suffered a crushing defeat, trailing in fourth place with 21 seats.

Mr Balkenende also stepped down as leader of the party, which plummeted to a historic low losing 20 seats.

The election is the fourth since 2002.

The coalition government fell after the Labour Party, refused to extend the Dutch contribution to NATO in Afghanistan.

Dutch troops are therefore expected to leave Afghanistan by August.

Polls closed at 2100 local time (1900 GMT) on Wednesday.