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Dutch populist Wilders loses ground in the polls as 'Trump effect' comes into play: Analyst

JERRY LAMPEN | AFP | GettyImages

Dutch populist Geert Wilders' popularity seems to be diminishing among the Netherlands electorate as his chances of an outright victory appear to be hampered by U.S. President Donald Trump's protectionist agenda.

With just over a week to go until the Netherlands general election, the leader of the anti-immigration Party for Freedom (PVV) is now running neck and neck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberals, according to a Peil.nl poll published Sunday.

"I can only speculate, but I think a negative Trump effects is at play," Holger Sandte, chief European analyst at Nordea, told CNBC in an email Tuesday.

"On top of that, Rutte's sharpening of the tone regarding immigration could also play a role. And some potential PVV voters might feel that their vote is lost as the main parties excluded to cooperate with Wilders," Sandte added.

Netherlands vote a bellwether for Europe

The Dutch election is regarded by many as a bellwether for rest of Europe after an uptick in support for populist candidates brought about by both the Brexit vote and Trump's surprise election victory last year.

Wilders has campaigned for the Netherlands to follow the U.K. out of the European Union and despite his impressive polling figures to date, a coalition appears inevitable given the country's fragmented political system. Furthermore, all other established parties in the Netherlands have ruled out forming a coalition with the PVV.

"Most of the PVV-voters don't actually believe that Geert Wilders will offer solutions," Jesse Klaver, leader of the Dutch Greens party, told newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad in an interview published Friday.

Immigration has been a key theme on the campaign trail for the Netherlands presidential hopefuls and Wilders has frequently praised Trump's protectionist rhetoric.

The PVV leader has suggested he would want to prevent Muslin immigration in the Netherlands altogether. Wilders had previously been convicted of discrimination against Moroccans in December after he had been accused of inciting racial hatred at a political rally in 2015, although he did not receive any punishment.

Trump signed a revised executive order on Monday which bans citizens from six Muslim-majority nations including Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The ban takes effect from March 16, the day after the Dutch general election.