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Dutch election chaos: Police break up anti-lockdown protest ahead of crunch vote

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The activists were protesting against tough measures which have been in place across the country since late January. They have banned gatherings of more than two people, shut restaurants and bars and introduced the first night-time curfew since World War 2.

Initially officers told people to go home after they gathered at The Hague on Sunday and announced over loudspeakers that the event was over.

But when protesters refused to leave, and flouted social distancing rules, the authorities stepped in and broke it up forcefully.

Local media said several arrests were made during the clashes. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Dutch authorities tried to stop people travelling to the event by cancelling train services to the Netherlands’ administrative centre.

READ MORE: Merkel’s CDU suffers huge blow in regional elections

Polling shows that a majority of voters reluctantly support the lockdown, given the country’s high coronavirus infection rate.

But the curfew, which has been extended until the end of March, prompted several days of rioting across the country when it was first imposed on January 23.

In recent weeks, smaller demonstrations have happened in Amsterdam, with riot police repeatedly called in to shepherd away protesters who refuse to leave.

They reflect a growing impatience among a small section of society at the lockdown that wants the economy to reopen.

Voting started this morning, with polls open for three days to help ensure social distancing at polling stations.

Mr Rutte’s conservative VVD Party appears set to get a new four-year mandate.

But far-right candidate Geert Wilders is predicted to come second in a huge climb from just five seats in Parliament to a whopping 20.

According to Politico’s latest poll of polls, which amalgamates all well-conducted polls on a specific topic to a single estimate, the PVV leader will gain 13 percent of the votes, sending shockwaves to the incumbent Mr Rutte.

Mr Rutte, who has been the caretaker Prime Minister of the Netherlands since the Government quit in January after a subsidies scandal, is still heading the polls with 25 percent of the vote.

This will allow him to get up to 40 seats in Parliament but he will still be left in need of a coalition partner.

In a bid to dismiss Mr Rutte’s current popularity, the far-right leader told AFP: “The current government is rather popular now, at least the prime minister is, but then again in a time of crisis, people tend to rally around the flag.”



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