The Dutch have gone to the polls today to elect a new government to succeed the Christian Democrat/Liberal alliance led by Jan Peter Balkenende.
With the polling stations closing at 9pm, public broadcaster NOS has appealed to its commercial rival RTL not to publish the results of its exit poll at 8.50pm. NOS, traditional host of the post-election broadcast, says it is wrong to come out with a prognosis just before polling booths close.
Polling began this morning at 7.30am with one exception – the railway station at Zwijndrecht was open at 5.30am to encourage commuters to vote. Around 12 million people have the right to cast their ballot. Of these 715,000 are first-time voters.
By 2pm, 31% of the electorate had voted, slightly down on 2003. Turnout was lower in the cities, election watchers said. Most voting is taking place by computers.
However, in 34 districts, including Amsterdam, voters are still using the traditional red pencil after the home affairs ministry ruled certain types of voting computers were too easy to hack into.
The final opinion polls on Tuesday still gave the edge to the ruling Christian Democrats (CDA), with Labour (PvdA) in second place. In total 24 parties are taking part in the election, 15 of them are not currently represented in parliament.
Election news in brief
● Some 30,000 of the 600,000 Dutch nationals who live abroad voted.
● Around 18% of voters are aged under 30, 19% are older than 65.
● Nedap engineers have had to repair voting computers in 17 places.
● In nine districts, voters are also choosing a new local council. In Delft there is a referendum over a campsite.
● The polling station at the Simpelveld town hall in Limburg was closed for a while after a voter turned up with a grenade he had found.
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