Right-wing party tops Dutch poll

Freedom Party would become biggest in parliament if election held tomorrow, a boost leader Geert Wilders puts down to fury over austerity

Right-wing leader Geert Wilders has called for a series of mass demonstrations in the Netherlands following an opinion poll that shows his anti-euro Freedom Party would become the largest political party in the Dutch parliament if an election were held tomorrow.

The poll showed that just one in three voters – 34 per cent – want prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal-Labour coalition to complete its four-year term, down from 63 per cent after the government was formed last October, and from 44 per cent in February.

Worse still for the government, the Liberals, with 42 seats in the 150-seat parliament, would retain just 21 seats if an election were held tomorrow. Labour, on 28, would fall back to just 16.

The big winners would be the Freedom Party, which would almost double its seats from 15 to 29, a boost Mr Wilders said shows the Dutch are “furious” with the coalition’s programme of austerity.


Impact of crisis
A second survey, published by the government's sociocultural policy unit, showed the number of people who said they were feeling the impact of the economic crisis was up from 41 per cent in 2009 to 62 per cent.

It showed support for the EU was at its lowest level for five years, while support for the euro was also down, from an already low 36 per cent to 28 per cent.

After those two damning polls there was a rare moment of respite for the government when new figures showed its budget deficit for 2013 will stay within the EU limit of three per cent of GDP.

However, it was indicative of how challenging the economy remains that even the prime minister was downbeat about the latest figures, which forecast a deficit of 2.9 per cent after calculating downwards the cost of nationalising the financial services group SNS Reaal.

“This is purely a book-keeping exercise – and does not alter the urgent need to make spending cuts,” said Mr Rutte, who had originally been expecting a deficit of about 3.5 per cent, which could have damaged the country’s triple-A international credit rating.

“We should not congratulate ourselves just yet,” he added, referring to tensions emerging between his centre-right Liberals and Labour as they struggle to find €6 billion worth of cuts on top of €13 billion already agreed.

Labour leader Diederik Samsom – who strategically did not become deputy prime minister when his party entered coalition – attempted to distance himself from the new cuts, saying they would not come from healthcare, public housing or childcare benefits.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court