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General election 2017: The Netherlands goes to the polls as Europe watches

THE NETHERLANDS. The Netherlands goes to the polls on Wednesday to elect 150 members for the lower house of parliament and a new government.

Although some polling stations opened at midnight, most opened their doors at 7.30am and will close again at 9pm. In total, there are 9,000 polling stations around the country.

The smallest polling station is in the front room of a family home in the village of Marle just south of Zwolle, which has been used since 1948. Among the other unusual locations: a drive-in polling station in Zuidplas, the top of the Adam tower on the banks of the IJ in Amsterdam and on an uninhabited island in the Markermeer, complete with 3.5 hour boat trip.

The elections are being followed by an unprecedented number of foreign journalists and camera crews – double the interest at the last election in 2012.

The vote is being seen as a test of whether Europe really will swing to the right, in the wake of the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election as US president and ahead of key elections in Germany and France

Even if Geert Wilders does not win, and the polls show this is unlikely to be the case, his impact on the debate in terms of immigration and identity cannot be ignored, the New York Times wrote.

Debate

The final media debate of the campaign, featuring the leaders of all the parties currently represented in parliament, except Denk, drew an audience of some 3.3 million, double number of people who watched the final debate in 2012.

Commentators said afterwards that ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers, Lodewijk Asscher of the PvdA and GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver had made the biggest impression.

In particular, a heated exchange between Asscher and Geert Wilders about identity caused fireworks. Asscher told Wilders that the Netherlands belongs to everyone and everyone who works hard, to which Wilders retorted. ‘The Netherlands does not belong to everyone. The Netherlands belongs to the Dutch.’

Watch the highlights

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