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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 19:15 GMT
Far-right dress rehearsal at Dutch polls
Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok and his wife Rita vote
Racial issues are prominent in the elections
Voting has finished in the Netherlands' local elections which are being seen as a test of how a new far-right movement could fare in general elections in two months' time.

Pim Fortuyn, who is running in the city of Rotterdam, has caused waves within the Dutch political establishment with a distinctly anti-immigrant agenda.

The elections in Rotterdam are seen as a key test
He was dismissed as leader of the right-wing Livable Netherlands party last month for remarks made against Muslims in a newspaper interview.

But if the municipal elections go well, he intends to put forward a list of candidates under his leadership - Lijst Pim Fortuyn - for the May vote.

Testing the water

Analysts say that should Mr Fortuyn run in May's general elections as anticipated he could pick up enough seats to exert a significant influence on Dutch politics, although he is unlikely to be asked to join a government.

The 54-year-old, who is openly homosexual and sports a shaven-head, has crafted a political cocktail of ideas.

The mix combines traditional liberalism with a tough stance on law and order, calls for a crackdown on asylum-seekers and pledges to improve state health care.

Wednesday's municipal vote in Rotterdam, where Mr Fortuyn is standing, will be closely monitored as an indicator of his future fortunes on the national stage.

Figures show 61% of voters went to the polls.

In a city where only slightly more than half the population of 600,000 are Dutch citizens, it still remains unclear how many will be drawn by his policies, especially since resident foreigners are allowed to vote.

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