Dutch PM's party closing gap with far-right: polls

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The Hague (AFP)

Two months before Dutch elections the polls are narrowing with the Liberal party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte catching up with MP Geert Wilders' far-right party, an aggregated survey showed Wednesday.

Peilingwijzer -- which combines a number of polls in The Netherlands to get an average tally -- showed Wilders' Freedom Party would still emerge the largest group in parliament, if elections were held today.

But the PVV has dropped to between 29-33 seats in the 150-seat lower house, compared to 31-37 seats at the last aggregated prediction in mid-December.

Meanwhile, Rutte's pro-capitalist People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) would garner 23-27 seats, up from 22-26 in December, Peilingwijzer said.

The gap between the two parties appears to have shrunk from nine to 11 seats, to six to seven seats now.

Peilingwijzer combines polls from respected polling organisations Ipsos, I&O Research, Kantar Public, Peil.nl and De Stemming/Een Vandaag.

Wilders saw his popularity shoot up in December after being convicted for discrimination over comments he made about Moroccans living in The Netherlands, cashing in on anti-EU sentiments and fears about immigration -- particularly from Muslim countries.

He was further boosted by the annual debate here over Black Pete, the jolly folklore blackface character who accompanies Saint Nicholas in early December bringing gifts to children.

Dutch public newscaster NOS said there was no news in the media in January about either topic, which could explain why the PVV's poll number have dropped.

The PVV and VVD are followed by the central Christian Democrats, with 15-17 seats, and the progressive D66, with 14-17 seats.

The Labour Party, a junior coalition partner in Rutte's ruling government, looks set for a drubbing and has slid to 11-13 seats, down from 38 in the 2012 parliamentary polls.

Dutch voters on March 15 will launch a "super election" year in Europe, followed by French presidential polls in April and general elections in Germany in September.