Dutch ruling coalition continues slide in opinion poll

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 15, 2015 4:44 AM

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The center-right government of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte slid further in opinion polls ahead of a March provincial election that could see his fragile Liberal-Labour coalition lose the Senate.

Provincial elections are important in the Netherlands because they indirectly determine the composition of the upper house of parliament, where Rutte relies on the backing of three smaller parties to form a majority.

A poll published on Sunday by pollster Maurice de Hond showed the coalition losing a further 3 seats in the 150-seat parliament, largely due to a sharp fall in support for Labour, which has hit its lowest support level ever.

Sunday's poll did not specifically project the outcome of the March 18 provincial vote, but is seen as a good indicator of what Dutch voters will do.

Rutte's coalition, which nearly collapsed in December when an important health bill was shot down in the Senate, is increasingly shaky and the government could face political deadlock if the polls hold true.

If a parliamentary election were held now, the coalition would see its majority in the lower house wiped out, dropping from 79 seats it won in 2012 to just 29, down three from a week ago, the Sunday poll found.

Three right-wing parties, the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders, Rutte's Liberals and the centrist Democrats 66 are vying to become the largest party but none will win enough votes to rule outright.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Mark Heinrich)