Dutch Liberals pull ahead of Socialists after debate: poll

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 28, 2012 11:03 AM
Dutch Liberals pull ahead of Socialists after debate: poll

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - With just two weeks to go before polling day, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Liberal Party have taken the lead in an election dominated by the euro zone crisis, a survey published on Tuesday showed.

Rutte's stronger showing at the expense of his main rival, the Socialist Party, probably reflects his performance in a prime-time televised debate on Sunday, polling agency TNS Nipo said, citing viewers and political analysts.

The TNS Nipo poll showed the Liberal Party would win 36 seats in the 150-seat parliament, while the Socialist Party would win 30 seats.

It is the first time that a TNS Nipo poll has shown Rutte's party in the lead since July 10.

The poll also suggested that some voters were switching from Emile Roemer's Socialist Party to support the Labour Party, whose leader Diederik Samsom also did well in the TV debate.

While the fiscally conservative Netherlands is considered a core euro zone member, the run-up to the election on September 12 has highlighted growing discontent among voters over 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.

In Sunday's debate, Rutte stressed the importance of the European Union and euro zone membership for the Netherlands and its trade-dependent economy.

The Socialist Party and Labour Party both oppose austerity measures and want more time to achieve the EU's deficit target, while Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Freedom Party, wants the Netherlands to quit the euro and the EU.

Whichever party wins the most seats would need to form a coalition with several other parties, with talks expected to take weeks, if not months.

(Reporting by Sara Webb)