15 March 2021, Netherlands, Eindhoven: A voter casts his ballot at a polling station during the 2021 Dutch general election. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the parliamentary elections will take place over a total of three days for the first time. Photo: Rob Engelaar/ANP/dpa
15 March 2021, Netherlands, Eindhoven: A voter casts his ballot at a polling station during the 2021 Dutch general election. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the parliamentary elections will take place over a total of three days for the first time. Photo: Rob Engelaar/ANP/dpa

dpa/GNA – Polls opened in the Netherlands on Monday for the country’s first-ever vote spread out over three days, a scheme designed to avoid crowding during the country’s ongoing lockdown.

Two days ahead of the formal – and final – day of voting on Wednesday, a number of polling stations opened to give ample voting time to an electorate of around 13 million during the pandemic.

Postal voting has also been allowed for the first time for citizens aged 70 and over living in the country.

Some 1,600 polling stations opened on Monday morning at 7:30 am (0630 GMT). Wednesday is the main voting day.

Strict protective regulations apply in all polling stations. Tables, cubicles and other objects are disinfected regularly.

A night-time curfew during the pandemic is to remain in place on all three election days, however exceptions are being made for late voters and polling station staff.

To avoid the risk of queues and crowds at polling centres on Monday and Tuesday, the government is calling on citizens who do not face health risks in the event of a coronavirus infection to vote on Wednesday.

A record 37 parties are standing for election. Ahead of the vote, polls projected the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of Prime Minister Mark Rutte would take the clear lead with about 24 per cent, followed by the Party for Freedom (PVV) of right-wing populist Geert Wilders with about 12 per cent.

However it remains unclear if the previous coalition led by Rutte’s VVD will secure enough votes for a majority. Results are not expected until late Wednesday evening.

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