Economic Worries Are Central In Dutch Vote

Voting began Wednesday in the Netherlands after an election campaign in which the looming threat of economic austerity overshadowed the sensitive issue of immigration, which has dominated public debate in recent years.Although the Christian Democrat party, led by the center-right Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, faces a reverse, the shape of the next government remained unclear as the Liberal VVD party and the Labor Party jockeyed to garner the most votes.Despite the focus on the economy, the anti-immigration party led by Geert Wilders — an outspoken critic of Islam — is expected to poll well enough to make it a possible partner in a coalition government for the first time.No single party is likely to come near reaching an overall majority in the 150-seat Dutch Parliament, and negotiations on forming the next government are likely to take several days, if not weeks, after polling stations close at 9 p.m. Wednesday.Whichever combination of parties takes power, politicians agree that