Campaigning for the Dutch election began Wednesday with anti-Islam leader Geert Wilders front-runner in a vote that will test the anti-establishment sentiment that swept Britain out of the European Union and Donald Trump into the U.S. presidency.
Wilders, a euroskeptic, anti-immigration fan of Trump, has dubbed the March 15 parliamentary election the start of a “Patriotic Spring” in Europe, where French and German voters go to the polls in May and September.
Wilders and his Party for Freedom has led in opinion polls for most of the past two years, but the fragmented political landscape means a coalition government of four or more parties is all but inevitable.
His main rival, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the conservative VVD Party, is banking on a strengthening economic recovery to restore popularity lost during the austerity years of 2012-2014.
The two announced on Wednesday they will face off head-to-head in a televised debate on March 13.