ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands

Polling stations opened early Monday across the Netherlands for general elections.

The elections will span over three days to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

People in high-risk groups are advised to vote on Monday and Tuesday, while others are advised to cast their votes on Wednesday to reduce the number of people at polling stations.

The country also introduced mail-in voting for approximately 2.4 million voters above the age of 70.

The Dutch media will broadcast exit polls on Wednesday. Official results will be announced on March 22.

Voting will continue from 7.30 a.m. (0630GMT) to 9 p.m. (2000GMT).

In order to form a government, a political party must win 76 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament. However, the Netherlands has been run by coalition governments for more than a century as no single party gains a majority vote.

The formation of the new government is expected to take weeks or even months. In 2017, the government was formed after 225 days of negotiations between parties, and in 2012, it took 54 days.

Political parties

Some 37 political parties are in the run, but almost half of them will not win a seat in parliament.

According to opinion polls by IPSOS, the conservative People’s Party of Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, is expected to win 39 seats, almost twice as many parliamentary seats as his nearest rival the anti-Islam Freedom party (PVV) of Geert Wilders, which is expected to win 21 seats.

But the VVD has ruled out forming a government with the PVV.

The PVV is followed by VDD’s current coalition partners; Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) with 17 seats, Democrats 66 (D66) with 14, and Christen Union (CU) with six seats.

Elections will not cause any major political upset, according to the opinion poll, as the current coalition partners are expected to win 76 seats.

The Denk Party, which has three seats in parliament since 2017, will compete with 21 candidates, most of whom are of Turkish origin.

The NIDA Party will participate in the general elections with 31 candidates for the first time, and has introduced itself as “the party inspired by Islam.”

There are eight candidates of Turkish origin in the Denk Party and seven in the NIDA Party.

*Writing and contribution by Busra Nur Cakmak in Ankara

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