Dutch voters helped to kick-off the european elections in a vote which could land their leaders in hot water with the European Commission. Authorities want to publish the results once the polls close tonight, and not wait till Sunday as the rules dictate.
There is a fear that voter turnout – which has fallen in each election since the first in 1979 – will drop to a record low this year. But the party of the Dutch Prime Minister is predicted to come out on top in the ballot – an opinion poll predicts Jan Peter Balkenende’s Christian Democrats will win 14 per cent of the vote. The CDA’s governing partner, the Labour Party are lying in second place according to research with a 12 per cent share of support. But that is the same figure – 12 per cent – that is being predicted for the far right-wing party of Geert Wilders – a leader with an anti-Islamic message who has been calling on voters to keep the EU out of immigration policy. He is also keen to keep Turkey from joining the 27 member nations. The Dutch are choosing 25 MEPs to go to Brussels and Strasbourg, but like everywhere else voters are having to deal with growing unemployment and economic hardship. Observers are watching keenly to see how many of the 13-million voters will turnout and what proportion of them will support the extremists.