THE HAGUE, March 15 (Xinhua) -- At 7:30 a.m.local time (0630 GMT) Wednesday, over 9,000 polling stations in the Netherlands opened their doors for the 2017 Dutch parliamentary elections.
A total of 28 parties, equaling the post-World War II record of 1971 and 1981, and 1,114 candidates joined the race for the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.
The Dutch elections could be seen as a barometer of populism for the high-stake forthcoming elections later this year in France and Germany. Based on the latest polls, the anti-Islam and anti-Europe Party for Freedom PVV will not win a majority of seats.
The largest party in the latest polls is the rightist liberal party VVD of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who had governed with Labor PvdA over the last four years and four months. However, the difference in the polls with the right wing populist PVV and the Christian Democrats CDA is small and the leftist liberals D66, green lefties GroenLinks, Socialist Party SP and Labor PvdA also still hope for a victory.
A total of 12.9 million Dutch citizens of 18 years and older, in a population of around 17 million, are allowed to cast their vote at polling locations in the country's 388 municipalities.
The Dutch can vote in many shopping centers, residential care homes, train stations, schools, libraries and elsewhere. The municipality Zuidplas even has a drive-in voting station, where inhabitants can drive into the polling station by car, motorcycle or bicycle.
There's even a polling station at a 2000-year-old temple in the Leiden National Museum of Antiquities and another about 100 meters high on the A'dam Tower in Amsterdam. The Salvation Army in Amsterdam also contains a polling station.
The municipalities expect a bigger turnout than in 2012, when 74.6 percent of the electorate voted, one of the lowest turnouts since 1970, the year that compulsory voting was abolished. The record low was the 73.3 percent turnout during the elections of 1998.
The preliminary, non-official results will be presented on Wednesday evening, based on a quick count of votes by the electoral committees. The Dutch Electoral Council will announce the final results on March 21.