The Netherlands goes to the polls

The Netherlands goes to the polls today to elect a new government. Polling booths opened at 7.30 with one exception – the railway station at Zwijndrecht was open at 05.30 to encourage commuters to vote. Around 12 million people have the right to cast their ballot, of whom 715,000 are first-time voters.

Most voting will take place using computers. However, in 34 districts, including Amsterdam, voters will still use the traditional red pencil after the home affairs ministry ruled certain types of voting computers were too easy to hack into.
The Volkskrant reports that some 160,000 people will not be able to vote because they do not have a valid voting pass. They are victims of an experimental system allowing them to vote where ever they like, within their voting district. People who have lost their pass or who never got one in the first place, will no longer be able to identify themselves using a passport or ID card. This used to be possible when voters were told which polling station to go to.
The final opinion polls still give the edge to the ruling Christian Democrats, with Labour (PvdA) in second place. A mock election among over 150,000 senior school pupils saw victory for Labour, which was just ahead of the Socialist Party.
According to pollster Maurice de Hond 15% of voters were still undecided on Wednesday. And according to a survey by MarketResponse on Tuesday one of three people who have consulted the Stemwijzer (internet questionaaire to determine which party you should vote for) will follow its advice. Some four million people have used the Stemwijzer in the lead up to the election.
In total 24 parties are taking part in the election, 15 of them are not currently represented in parliament.
Last night’s traditional televised ‘final debate’ between the main party leaders was largely on traditional left versus right issues. According to a live poll conducted by the programme makers of EenVandaag Socialist Party top man Jan Marijnissen won the discussion with 34% of the 5,000 respondents claiming he was the most convincing speaker. Number two was Labour leader Wouter Bos (22%) followed by CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende (20%).
The first exit poll is expected shortly after voting ends at 9pm, with a reliable estimate of the make up of the new parliament due around 22.00. will be publishing regular updates throughout the evening. A special late edition of the newspaper will be published around midnight.

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