AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch Liberal Party, the pro-business movement led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and the far-left Socialists are neck and neck ahead of a September 12 parliamentary election dominated by the euro zone crisis, two polls showed over the weekend.
The fiscally conservative country is considered a core euro zone member, but the run-up to the ballot has highlighted growing discontent about Europe - in particular over the high cost of bailing out weaker euro zone states and the pressure for belt-tightening at home.
Rutte's Liberal Party and its coalition partner, the Christian Democrats, have pushed for spending cuts to bring the Netherlands' budget deficit below 3 percent of economic output by 2013, in line with European rules.
The Socialist Party opposes austerity measures and wants more time to achieve that target.
A Maurice de Hond poll on Sunday showed the Socialist Party would win 35 seats in the 150-seat parliament, ahead of the Liberal Party with 32 seats, whereas an Ipsos Synovate poll late on Friday showed the Liberals winning 34 seats, putting them ahead of the Socialists with 30 seats.
In a televised debate on Sunday night between the heads of the four parties leading in the polls, Rutte reiterated the importance of the European Union and euro zone membership for the Netherlands and its trade-dependent economy.
But when pressed on whether Greece should receive more funds, Rutte said the Netherlands would not pay out any more money to the troubled euro zone member.
"We have helped out twice. They need to stick to the agreements to show they want to stay in the euro. Not another cent," Rutte said.
Europe's financial crisis dominated the televised debate, showing how the concerns of voters have changed since recent elections, when immigration and radical Islam were key issues.
Labor Party leader Diederik Samsom said he would cut billions in defense, healthcare and government bureaucracy costs but, like the Socialists, wanted more time to meet the EU budget deficit targets.
Geert Wilders, who heads the anti-immigration Freedom Party, was the only leader in the debate to say he wanted the Netherlands to leave the euro and the European Union.
Whichever party wins the most seats will need to form a coalition with several other parties. Talks are expected to take weeks, if not months.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Sara Webb and Andrew Heavens)
Republican Author of Patriot Act Seeks Prosecution of Obama's Intelligence Director for Lying to Congress | Mike Shedlock