Over 9,000 polling stations in the Netherlands opened their doors on Wednesday for the 2017 Dutch parliamentary elections.
A total of 28 parties, and 1,114 candidates joined the race for the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.
The Dutch elections could be seen as a barometer of populism for the high-stake forthcoming elections later this year in France and Germany, Efe news reported.
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The race is dominated by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV), running on an anti-immigration platform.
Rutte has said the election is an opportunity for voters to “beat the wrong sort of populism”.
Wilders has pledged to take the Netherlands out of the EU, close all mosques and ban the Quran.
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His Freedom Party had been leading in opinion polls but they have since suggested his support may be slipping.
Wednesday’s election also comes amid a diplomatic spat between the Netherlands and Turkey.
A total of 12.9 million Dutch citizens of 18 years and older, in a population of around 17 million, are allowed to cast their vote at polling locations in the country’s 388 municipalities.
The Dutch can vote in many shopping centres, residential care homes, train stations, schools, libraries and elsewhere.
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The municipality Zuidplas even has a drive-in voting station, where inhabitants can drive into the polling station by car, motorcycle or bicycle.
The municipalities expect a bigger turnout than in 2012, when 74.6 per cent of the electorate voted, one of the lowest turnouts since 1970, the year that compulsory voting was abolished. The record low was the 73.3 per cent turnout during the elections of 1998.
The preliminary, non-official results will be presented on Wednesday evening, based on a quick count of votes by the electoral committees. The Dutch Electoral Council will announce the final results on March 21.
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