Leading candidates in Dutch parliamentary elections

The Liberal Party of Mark Rutte (pictured) looks set to pool the largest number of MPs, with the far-right Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders poised to form the fourth largest bloc in the Dutch parliament.


AFP - Nineteen parties will contest 150 seats in the lower house of the Dutch parliament in elections Wednesday. Ten have been in parliament since the last vote on November 22, 2006. Four lead in the opinion polls.

- The Liberal Party (VVD), headed by 43-year-old Mark Rutte, leads the race. The VVD, with 21 MPs currently, wants to cut public spending by 20 billion euros (24.5 billion dollars) and eradicate the public deficit.

It wants to halve the number of government ministers, increase taxes, and raise the retirement age from 65 to 67.

The VVD was a member of the first three of four coalition governments headed by outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende from 2002.

- The Labour Party (PvdA), led by 62-year-old Job Cohen, currently has 33 MPs. Placed second in the polls, the party proposes to invest two billion euros in education up to 2015, tax high earners more, create a new tax for banks, and cut public spending by 10 billion euros.

- The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) of outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, 54, won with 41 seats in 2006 but is now placed third in the race. With its adherence to Christian family values, the party promises not to reduce student bursaries nor the tax benefit for mortgage holders. It wants to raise the retirement age to 67 by 2020.

- The Party for Freedom (PVV) was created by ex-VVD member Geert Wilders, 46, to contest the 2006 elections, when it got nine seats. It won five of the Netherlands' 25 European parliament seats in elections last June.

In his campaign to stop the "Islamisation of the Netherlands", Wilders seeks to stop immigration from Muslim countries, ban headscarves for public servants and the construction of new mosques.

- Other parties: The green party, GroenLinks, let by 44-year-old Femke Halsema, has seven MPs. The Socialist Party (SP) of Emile Roemer, 47, occupies 25 seats, but has fallen sharply in the polls. The centrist D66 led by Alexander Pechtold, 44, expects to see its three MPs triple in number. With six MPs, the Christian Union led by 48-year-old Andre Rouvoet was in coalition with the CDA and PvdA until the government crashed in February in a spat over military deployment to Afghanistan.

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