Dutch set to punish ruling coalition in local vote

19th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

Dutch voters were expected to punish the ruling Liberal-Labour coalition in local elections Wednesday after a slew of unpopular deficit-busting austerity measures.

Analysts and opinion polls predicted that Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte's VVD and its coalition partner the centre-left PvdA would lose many council seats.

"I think that the two ruling parties will be punished by voters," political analyst Andre Krouwels told AFP.

Polls suggested that Labour (PvdA) would lose control of Amsterdam for the first time in over 60 years, and could also be overtaken by anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders' PVV party in The Hague.

Rutte's VVD is also predicted to lose seats in the total 400 councils that are up for grabs, contested by an astonishing figure of more than 1,000 parties.

"Voters are turning to D66 (centrist) and small local parties because they're unhappy with austerity measures and tax hikes," said analyst Krouwels.

Populist leader Wilders' PVV candidates are only standing in two cities and success would bolster their morale ahead of May's European Parliament elections, Krouwels added.

The PVV wants the Netherlands to exit the European Union.

Dutch media say that this year's local elections are more important than previously because various government responsibilities are devolving to a local level, including healthcare and care for the elderly or handicapped.

Initial results are to be announced shortly after polls close at 9:00 pm (2000 GMT).

The government last year reached a deal with the opposition to make a further six billion euros (8.4 billion dollars) in budget cuts to bring the deficit down to below three percent, in accordance with EU rules.

In total the government has made 30 billion euros in cuts since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.

© 2014 AFP

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