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Dutch would support Verdonk as independent-poll

Written by: Staff

AMSTERDAM, July 3 (Reuters) Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, at the centre of the row which caused the Dutch government to collapse last week, could gain 15 percent of the vote if she formed her own political party, according to a poll.

Verdonk, who came under heavy criticism over her threat to strip Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Dutch citizenship, would most likely attract votes from supporters of her current VVD liberals party or smaller anti-immigration parties, the survey for Dutch television found.

Hirsi Ali admitted to lying about her name and refugee status on arriving in the Netherlands in 1992, but later said her chosen name was valid because it was taken from her grandfather according to Somali customs.

Although Verdonk withdrew her threat after the popular politician's statement, the D66 party said the minister's policies and actions went beyond the limits of public credibility and abandoned the centre-right coalition government.

The remaining parties of the coalition look likely to form a caretaker government until national elections in November.

Verdonk's tough stance on immigration and asylum as well as her stringent demands of immigrants already settled in the country have earned her wide support, although she failed in her bid to become leader of the VVD.

Former VVD leader Jozias van Aartsen told Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad today Verdonk had been blinded by the polls and was increasingly going her own way.

Reuters DH VP0033

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