Liberals, Labour tie Dutch vote, anti-immigrant party third: exit poll

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The Dutch centre-right Liberal Party and Labour tied at 31 parliament seats out of 150 in an early exit poll Wednesday as an extreme anti-immigrant party leapt to third spot with 23.

The VVD led by 43-year-old Mark Rutte had been widely expected to come out tops in pre-election polls, but lost steam overnight to land on par with the PvdA labour party of Job Cohen, 62.

The Party for Freedom (PVV) of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders more than doubled its parliamentary representation to 23 seats from its current nine, making it the third largest, according to a provisional estimate by polling company Synovate and announced on national television.

The PVV surpassed even the Christian Democratic Action of outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, 54, which had been polled in third place but came fourth with 21 seats.

Some 10,000 polling stations opened in the Netherlands at 7:30 am (0530 GMT) and closed at 1900 GMT for polls brought forward after the government collapsed in February in a spat over military aid to Afghanistan.

© 2010 AFP

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