Voters go to the polls in six parts of the Netherlands on Wednesday, following the redrawing of local authority boundaries.
New local councils are being elected in Geert Wilders’ home town of Venlo as well as in Venray, Zuidplas, Peel en Maas, Oldambt and Horst aan de Maas.
But Wilders’ anti-Islam party PVV is not contesting any seats.
Liberal leader Mark Rutte says he expects his party, the VVD, to benefit from Wilders’ absence. ‘Polls show VVD support is growing everywhere, whatever the PVV does,’ he told the Telegraaf.
The Labour party (PvdA), whose fortunes have slumped in opinion polls, is also following the vote with great interest. ‘We have run a strong campaign and are not focusing on the PVV,’ said parliamentary leader Mariëtte Hamer. ‘Local issues are very different to national ones.’
Rita Verdonk’s populist party TON is competing in one area, Zuidplas.
Despite the presence of high profile politicians in the areas where voting is taking place, the local vote cannot be translated into a national opinion poll, says the Volkskrant.
‘Voters are far more interested in the parties’ position on a new road than the pension age,’ the paper said.
News agency ANP reports that polling stations have been warned to watch out for people with too many proxy votes in Venlo. Mayor Hubert Bruls has asked the police to investigate claims that members of the Turkish community in the town have been collecting up voting forms, ANP said.
The rest of the country goes to the polls to elect new local councils in March 2010.
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