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Dutch candidates step up campaign pace

Dutch candidates step up campaign pace
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Political leaders in the Netherlands are trying to garner as many last minute votes as possible before Wednesday’s general election.

For outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, it is the fourth time he has led a ruling coalition into an early ballot.

Although his last government’s downfall was Afghanistan, the economy has now become the central election issue among voters. That is seen as bad news for controversial far-right leader Geert Wilders, who is more at home when immigration is the hot topic.

Opinion polls put Liberal leader Mark Rutte out in front. An admirer of Thatcherist economic principles, he is seen by many Dutch as the candidate most likely to tackle the country’s budget deficit effectively.

Then there is Labour Party leader Job Cohen, former mayor of Amsterdam, who nine years ago became the first mayor in the world to officially marry two gay men. He has promoted the full integration of immigrants, and is presented as a builder of dialogue between the Netherlands’ ethnic communities.