Home » Netherlands first out of the blocks as voting across EU begins – DutchNews.nl

Netherlands first out of the blocks as voting across EU begins – DutchNews.nl

Polls have opened in the Netherlands on the first day of voting for the European parliament, with most of the rest of Europe’s 380 million voters having to wait until the weekend.

By midday 7% of the electorate had cast their votes, almost exactly the same proportion as five years ago, when the overall turnout was a modest 42%.

Latest polls suggest Geert Wilders’s far-right PVV party will win eight of the 31 Dutch seats, having failed to return a single MEP five years ago.

The left-wing alliance of GroenLinks-PvdA are also due to win eight seats on a slightly smaller vote share, but the seats will be split between the two parties, who sit in different “family groups” in Europe. GroenLinks are aligned with the European Green Party while the Labour group sit with the social-democratic faction.

Henri Bontenbal, leader of the Christian Democrats (CDA), was one of the first party leaders from The Hague to cast his ballot when the polls opened at 7.30 am, at the Johanneskerk in Rotterdam.

Bontenbal, whose party is forecast to lose two of its four seats, called on voters to support its “decent, constructive and hopeful” agenda in a post on social media site X, better known as Twitter.

Wilders voted at his favoured polling station, the city council offices in The Hague, flanked as ever by his team of bodyguards. The PVV’s lead candidate in Europe, Sebastiaan Stöteler, cast his ballot in Almelo, Overijssel.

Wilders posted a tweet appealing to his supporters to vote for the PVV to stop Frans Timmermans, the GL-PvdA leader in The Hague, from becoming “the biggest”. He claimed that success for his rival would mean “more asylum seekers, fewer houses for us and more insecurity”.

“Strong Europe”

D66 leader Rob Jetten called for voters to back a “strong Europe for the Netherlands” as he cast his vote, saying it was essential “for our security, for our economy and for the climate.”

Sander Smit, who is hoping to become an MEP for the farmers’ party BBB, voted early at the town hall in Hof van Twente, where he was previously a councillor, while Gerrie Elfrink, top candidate for the Socialist Party SP, voted in Arnhem.

Around 250 people arrived to vote during the morning at Huis van Europa, the EU’s liaison office in The Hague, which serves as an extra polling station for European elections.

Michiel Riegen, a 73-year-old tour guide, chose to vote at Huis van Europa so he could admire the building’s stained glass windows, which are usually out of sight, but also because of its significance as the EU’s home in The Hague.

He lamented the fact that the campaign had failed to capture voters’ imagination. “My generation understands why Europe is important, but it’s hard to explain to my daughter of 35,” he said. “Anti-European sentiment is increasing in the Netherlands and all across Europe. I think the turnout will be dismally low, lower than last time.”

Shift to right

Esther Ouwehand, leader of the animal rights party PvdD, said she was hopeful that its sole MEP, Anja Hazekamp, could hold on to the seat that she has held since 2014.

Ouwehand, whose party sits with the left-wing group GUE-NGL, said she feared an “ill wind” of far-right parties could gain strength across the continent and threaten Europe’s common values.

“We can’t live in peace and freedom in Europe if people are treated as second-class citizens,” she said. “And if we don’t tackle the climate crisis and protect our nature, people will have no basic standard of living.

“That’s why we need to stand up and fight back against this ill wind that’s coming from the radical right.”