Story highlights

Dutch people voting in election for 150-seat House of Representatives

Conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte faces challenge from far-right rival Geert Wilders

Netherlands' political system means coalition government is all but assured

Amsterdam CNN  — 

Voters in the Netherlands are heading to the polls Wednesday in an election widely seen as an indicator of populist sentiment across Europe.

With the first round of the French presidential election just over a month away and Germany headed to the ballot box later this year, the Dutch battle is being closely watched for clues to wider political trends.

Conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte is facing a tight battle with far-right rival Geert Wilders, whose anti-immigrant, anti-Islam tirades have landed him in court – but also won him widespread support in a country that is increasingly polarized by austerity and immigration issues.

Rutte’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, the VVD, leads the latest Peilingwijzer poll of polls by Leiden University, but Wilders’ Freedom Party, the PVV, is hot on its heels.