Dutch elections: Mark Rutte mocks far-right rival Geert Wilders for 'tweeting from the couch'

Netherlands: Mark Rutte tells Geert Wilders 'there's a big difference between tweeting from the couch and running the country'

Mark Rutte and Geert Wilders took part in a debate

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and far-right populist Geert Wilders have locked horns in a furious debate on live television for the first time. 

Rutte's attack centred on Wilders' prolific tweeting, which has caused huge controversy in the run-up to the election.

The pair discussed the Dutch relationship with Turkey as well as its role within the European Union, in light of the diplomatic spat which has erupted between Amsterdam and Ankara.

Wilders said: "At least throw the Turkish ambassador and his staff out of the country. [President Rutte is] being taken hostage by Erdogan. Close the Dutch borders."

But Rutte responded: "You want Nexit, you want the Netherlands out of Europe. You know what it will cost...don't do it.

"This is the difference between tweeting from the couch and running the country. If you run the country you have to take sensible decisions."

Wilders has been likened by some to Donald Trump for his right-wing rabble-rousing, and shares the US President's fondness for social media.

His tweeting has brought considerable criticism, however. Last December he sparked fury by tweeting a picture of Angela Merkel with blood on her hands, before tweeting a fake picture of a rival last month.

The general election will take place tomorrow (March 15) and is being watched around the world, with pundits suggesting it could serve as a bellwether for the global rise of right-wing populism.

However Wilders has been polling at only 20%, and even if he wins the popular vote it is unlikely he will be able to form a government as other parties have claimed they won't work with him.

The pair are set to take part in another debate tonight (March 14), alongside other political leaders.