The Dutch go to the polls tomorrow in a General Election that could see a Liberal prime minister forming a government, which has not happened in nearly a century.
Polls say Mark Rutte’s VVD party looks set to win 36 seats in the 150 seat chamber, based on a campaign of budget cuts, halving the Netherland’s contribution to the EU budget, and slashing social security payments for immigrants. Rutte used to run Unilever, and is a fan of Britain’s Margaret Thatcher. He brings a businessman’s answer to the crisis the Dutch find themselves in, even if the eurozone’s number five economy is better-placed than most.
The Pvda Worker’s party is heading for second place and 29 seats in this tight race, but the outgoing Christian Democrat Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, after eight years in power, has slumped to 24 seats from 41 say the polls.
The changes run deeper than politics, too, says political analyst Rob de Wijk;
“This country has become more inward looking, it’s preoccupied with itself, there is a tendency to ignore what is happening in the outside world.”
Afghanistan brought the government down a year early. 24 Dutch soldiers have died there, but the troops will start coming home this summer. Despite sparking the poll, Afghanistan has not featured in the campaign, being replaced by hot issues like taxes and mortgages. It is also the first of the eurozone nations to go to the polls since the currency crisis began, so the result will be keenly watched.