By Jesse Wieten
THE HAGUE, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Dutch voters have much to choose from during the forthcoming general elections on Wednesday, September 12, regarding the parties and platforms for the Netherlands and beyond.
The Liberal Party VVD of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte is, according to the latest exit polls, the favorite to win the elections for the second consecutive time, although political left parties PvdA (Labor) of Diederik Samsom and the SP (Socialist Party) of Emile Roemer are eager to make it a close battle.
Besides domestic issues the focus in Dutch politics is on the euro crisis as Dutch concerns about the crisis in Europe and the consequences for the Netherlands have dominated the election campaigns.
Last Wednesday, one week ahead of the elections, the leaders of the eight biggest parties clashed in a debate in the Amsterdam theatre Carre. During this debate outgoing PM Rutte ruled out a possible new additional support package for Greece and voted against the proposition that the utmost must be done to keep the Euro zone together.
However, the remarks led to much criticism from other party leaders who suggested other options. PvdA's Samsom and Alexander Pechtold of D66 (Democrats) advocated to spare no efforts to keep all member states within the eurozone.
In the 2010 elections the VVD became the biggest Dutch party for the first time in history with 31 of the 150 seats in the parliament, while PvdA finished second, with only one seat behind the winner. But the biggest surprise then was the right-wing populist PVV (Party of Freedom) of Geert Wilders which gained 24 seats.
After long negotiations a minority government was formed by the VVD and the CDA (Christian Democrats). The two parties made a policy agreement with the PVV in order to achieve a small majority in parliament. In April this year the government of Rutte handed resignation over disagreement on the budget and austerity measures.
A few days after the fall of the government VVD and CDA made an agreement with other parties D66, GroenLinks (Green Left) and ChristenUnie (Christian Union) on budget measures to comply with the EU rules, which prescribe a maximum budget deficit of 3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013.
However, PvdA, SP and the PVV are still opposed to getting down the deficit to 3 percent next year already. They want to have more time and decrease the deficit down at a slower pace.
At the 2012 elections there are 21 parties to choose from, ranging from the traditional parties to parties which only represent the elderly or even the animals. Therefore, a variety of government options are possible depending on the election's results.
In view of the fragmented political landscape, no party is expected to win an overwhelming victory on September 12. But whatever the outcome, new round of negotiations seemed inevitable.
As one of the few European countries that maintained top rating among international rating agencies, the general election of the Netherlands would no doubt draw attention of Europe and beyond. Any sign of abandonment of austerity or break from Brussels might intrigue other countries to follow.