Millions head to polling stations on final day of voting in Dutch elections
The day has arrived: polling stations across the country may have first opened their doors on Monday, but March 17 marks the day that the majority of people across the Netherlands will be casting their ballots in the national election.
Thousands of polling stations open across the Netherlands
The first polling stations opened this morning, with voters streaming in from the early hours of the morning. There are around 9.000 polling stations across the country, with some opening in locations better known as tourist attractions or historical buildings - in Amsterdam, voters can head to the Van Gogh museum, the Olympic Stadium, or the Concertgebouw, while in The Hague voters can cast their ballots at the Kunstmuseum, and in Arnhem, the beautiful former prison, Koepelengevangenis, has opened its doors.
An estimated 13,2 million people are eligible to vote in this year’s election. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means strict measures are in place at all polling stations, but fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus - plus the grey and rainy weather forecast for the day - means experts are unsure how many will show up.
Famous pollster Maurice de Hond has said he has “very serious concerns” about the turnout, and expects it could be as much as 15 percent lower than in the last national election in 2017.
Rutte and VVD still expected to win, exciting race for second place
Opinion polls currently suggest that acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) will hold on to their majority, but changes over the last few days show the party could lose a handful of seats. The exciting race this year is the race for second place, as the Party for Freedom (PVV), the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and D66 are currently neck and neck, with each forecasted to receive between 16 and 20 seats.
However, Peter Kanne from I&O Research has said to be wary of opinion polls, as they are not always accurate. He does, however, note that VVD’s clear lead in the polls could lead to a change in the way people vote as they instead look to support smaller parties such as Volt, JA21 or Party for the Animals (PvdD), but says it is also possible that other, even smaller newcomers like BIJ1, Code Oranje or Nida could take seats in the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer).
This year, 37 parties are taking part in the elections, and voters can choose from 1.579 candidates when casting their vote. Party leaders of the eight largest parties pulled out all the stops in a final push to win votes in a NOS debate on Tuesday night. Over two million people tuned in to watch the biggest political names in the Netherlands go head to head.
Dutch national election: First exit poll expected at 9pm
The first exit poll, based on research and predictions by Ipsos, will be released at 9pm on Wednesday evening. The first results are expected to be announced from 9.40pm, and at around midnight, ANP - the largest press agency in the Netherlands - hopes to publish a preliminary forecast based on the results from dozens of municipalities.
Once around 50 percent of the votes have been counted, ANP will amend their forecast (if necessary) and publish it as the forecast of the election results. All the votes are expected to be counted by the end of March 18, and the Electoral Council will determine the official result on March 26.