The Dutch are going to the polls for the third time in a year today, this time to elect the 564 members of the 12 provincial councils. Turnout was poor at press time and observers said they do not expect it to reach 50%.
Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende (Christian Democrat) said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ in the lack of interest in the provincial elections while his Labour deputy Wouter Bos said the situation was ‘very sad’. Action must be taken to make the provincial councils more relevant to the man in the street, said Bos.
Aside from deciding the political make-up of the provincial governments, today’s vote also determines the colour of the upper house of parliament (the senate or Eerste Kamer).
The centre-left coalition government currently holds 44 of the 75 senate seats but could lose its majority if the Socialist Party (SP) and right-wing Liberals (VVD) do as well as some polls have predicted.
Not having a majority in the senate will make it tricky for the new government to pass controversial bills. The SP and VVD have already vowed they will join forces to fight state pension reforms.
The VVD has campaigned heavily in this election under the motto ‘if you regret how you voted in the national elections, vote VVD’.
As part of its campaign, the SP put a film featuring party leader Jan Marijnissen on the internet. The film was seen by one million viewers within a week.
The polls close at 9pm. For results check www.dutchnews.nl/news
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