The Hague, March 9 (AFP/APP):Dutch voters head to the polls next week in the first major test of a European government’s coronavirus policies in 2021, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte on course to win a fourth term in office.
Despite the Netherlands recently suffering the worst riots for decades over its Covid curfew, Rutte leads in the polls as the Dutch appear to rally around the flag after a year of the pandemic.
The virus has dominated the debate ahead of the March 17 vote, leaving little space for other issues such as the anti-immigration message of the anti-Islam, EU-bashing opposition leader Geert Wilders.
Some polling stations will open on March 15 and 16 for the elderly and the Covid-vulnerable.
“This election of course it’s very much Covid and also the economic decline crisis that will emerge from this,” Andre Krouwel, who teaches political science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, told AFP.
“That changes from previous elections when it was more about immigration and European integration.”
A total of 37 parties, the most for decades, are competing for 150 seats in the Dutch lower house of parliament, in a crowded political landscape that usually produces unwieldy coalitions.
Rutte’s liberal VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) currently has 32 seats and leads a four-party coalition along with the conservative Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Christian Union, and the centre-left D66.
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