Dutch set to swing to the right

Voters turning to right-wing parties in election as economy and immigration dominate debate.

    Although Wilders, right, has stolen the limelight, Rutte, left, is expected to win the election [EPA]

    Like him or hate him, Geert Wilders, with his dyed blonde hair, has become the international face of Wednesday's general election in the Netherlands.

    The leader of the Freedom Party (PVV) has fought a campaign on the basis of his anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic views.

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    Wilders, 46, will gain from the vote, he could even double his number of seats to 18 or 20.

    A big political leap, but nowhere near a winning number.

    Casting his vote on Wednesday, he told waiting journalists: "Once again I hope we have an excellent outcome in the results of the elections today.

    "And to makes it possible for us to govern as part of the coalition and to change so much things for the better in Holland."
    The security guards that surround him everywhere he goes are an indication of how divisive a character he is, the target of numerous death threats.

    No choice

    However, the right's best chance of making it into government is Mark Rutte, the 43-year-old leader of the Dutch Liberal Party (VVD).

    Rutte is right-wing, but has been careful never to attack Islam. If he becomes the next prime minister he may give Wilders a place in cabinet.

    "We do not rule out any party. No party at all," Rutte told journalists.

    "At the same time, there are huge differences between my party, and the Labour Party, and the Freedom Party."

    The poll has become a fight between the Labour party and Liberal party [Elizabeth Dunningham]

    Rutte may not have a choice. This election has become a two-horse race between the Liberals on the right and the Labour party on the left.

    The polls show the two are pretty close, but neither will have enough votes to rule alone amd there will have to be a coalition.

    Mei Li Vos, a candidate for Labour, is wearing red.

    Indonesian Dutch, she comes from one of the Netherlands many immigrant families who have integrated over the years.

    She's worried her country could be about to move to the right.

    "What will this country be?" she told me.

    "Will it be an open country - open to immigration open to people open to Europe. Or will we be closed and just concerned with ourselves."

    Economic concerns

    At one time, Wilders' party was in the lead in opinion polls, but it dropped to fourth place after attention shifted to Europe's financial crisis and calls to cut the Netherland's deficit.

    The deficit is predicted to run at 6.3 per cent of GDP this year and voters are worried about likely budget cuts and their jobs.

    The left have a more long-term approach to the economy, which is losing them some votes.

    It is Rutte's party that seems to have the most urgency when it comes to dealing with the economic problems facing the country.

    Maeyn Lansbergen works in marketing, she is thinking of voting for Rutte's party.

    "It's very difficult to get a job," she says. "So they are going to elect someone who has their best interests for them."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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