Dutch Election: Parties won't speculate on coalition partners

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Dutch Election: Parties won't speculate on coalition partners

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Dutch voters go to the polls on Wednesday knowing that they can expect similar levels of austerity to their other European neighbours once a coalition government is eventually decided.

The early election was called in April after Prime Minister Mark Rutter failed to agree budget cuts with the controversial anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party supported the minority coalition in parliament.

Rutter’s Liberal Freedom and Democracy party (VVD)are neck and neck with the opposition Labour Party (PvdA) – with each expected to win 35 seats in the 150-seat parliament, according to the latest polls.

The Christian Democrats (CDA) helped the Liberals to form the last coalition in 2010 but commentators say – this time – parties have been reluctant to declare who their future partners would be, for fear of switching off potential voters.

Labour leader Dierderik Samsom’s performances during televised election debates have been noticed by the electorate. Analysts say his presentation skills have helped Labour overtake the Socialist party (PS) which has campaigned strongly against budget cuts and eurozone bailouts.

The Socialists, led by former schoolteacher Emile Roemer, are still expected to double their number of seats in parliament.

And then there’s the man who brought down the last government. Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders is facing claims that he received millions in financial support from anti-Islam groups in America.

Wilders says the funding is not illegal and covers just a modest amount of money.

Following the election, most analysts expect around three months of wrangling to agree the final coalition government. The longest negotiations in recent history took 208 days.