The opposition Labour and Socialist parties in the Netherlands have cause for celebration. The country’s left-wing parties are the main winners in local elections, one year ahead of parliamentary polls. It is bad news for Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and his Christian Democrat-led coalition of centre-right parties.
One of the big changes appears to have been in the port city of Rotterdam, where the party of murdered anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn came to power in 2002. Opinion polls had already predicted a shift towards the left and away from anti-immigration policies.
Observers say voters used this local ballot to express their discontent with the government about economic stagnation and high unemployment. The Labour party led a centre-left coalition government from 1994 to 2002.