Members of the Labour Party (PvdA) of Frans Timmermans celebrate after the exit polls of the European Parliament election | Koen Van Weel/AFP via Getty Images
Party of center-left candidate on course for five seats in European Parliament.
Updated 5/26/19, 7:16 AM CET
The Dutch Labor Party of Frans Timmermans, the center-left candidate for European Commission president, is the unexpected winner of the European Parliament election in the Netherlands, according to an exit poll.
The party won five out of 26 seats with more than 18 percent of the vote, doubling its result compared to the last European election in 2014.
That means that the Dutch social democrats will be a larger force on EU level than Prime Minister Mark Rutte's liberal party, which came second on 14 percent, and Thierry Baudet's upstart Euroskeptic Forum for Democracy (FvD), which came fourth on 11 percent.
Ahead of the election, the Social Democrats had been projected to come third with three seats, with Rutte's and Baudet's parties expected to win five seats each.
The exit poll conducted by polling agency Ipsos for Dutch broadcaster NOS was based on a sample of 35 polling stations, which Ipsos said form a "good cross-section" of voting in the Netherlands. It has a margin of error of one seat, or 2 percentage points.
Timmermans responded to the election results from Barcelona on Thursday, where he was campaigning alongside Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. "I would like to thank everyone in the Netherlands who voted for the PvdA for the trust they have placed in me, and I will do my utmost over the next five years to do justice to that trust," he said.
"There is a really clear majority in the Netherlands who want the EU to continue to play a role in tackling the problems that need to be solved," Timmermans added.
Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) rose from three seats in 2014 to four seats this time, according to the exit poll, while Baudet's FvD enters EU politics with three seats.
Rutte congratulated Timmermans' party. "The Labor Party has delivered an unbelievably good performance tonight," he said.
Official results will be released only on Sunday evening.