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Dutch Center-Right Christian Democrats Ahead in Polls


Polls in the Netherlands' parliamentary election have closed, with preliminary results showing the ruling Christian Democrats in the lead. The big winner of the day, though, appears to be the Socialist Party, which appears to have more than doubled the number of its parliament seats. Lauren Comiteau has more for VOA on the Dutch parliamentary elections from Amsterdam.

Supporters of the ruling Christian Democrats celebrate as the first results of this close race are read out. But putting together another ruling coalition won't be easy, especially since their politically conservative partners, the VVD, seem to have lost one-quarter of their seats.

Leaders of the Christian Democrats say they're happy they're still the biggest party in the Netherlands. Leaders of the Labor Party, meanwhile, say they are disappointed in their second-place showing, but at least the current center-right coalition appears to be history.

The big winners of the night are the Socialists-who seem to have tripled the number of their seats. Socialist Party MP Agnes Kant told Dutch broadcaster NOS that the results were more than the party expected.

Kant says, people trust and believe in the Socialists and they are ready for change. She say the Socialists are the ones who can deliver on the peoples' expectations.

Indeed, the Dutch seemed to vote less strategically than in the recent past.

Take lawyer and mother of two Muriella Hartmann. With education and the

environment topping her priority list, she knowingly voted for the losing progressives.

"I thought it was difficult this year," said Muriella Hartmann. "But in the end I voted a little like a coward because I voted for D66 [a minor party of progressives] and they can't do anything. But their view of Holland is like mine so I voted for them."

With 24 parties, hundreds of candidates, and ballots almost one meter-long, voting for many here hasn't been easy.

Polls showed some 40 percent of the eligible 12 million Dutch voters were undecided until Wednesday, the day of the election. Welfare reform and the economy were key issues, while the immigration and integration debate that has ruled recent elections weren't such big factors. This, despite news last week that the government will move to ban the burqa and reports of alleged abuse by Dutch troops in Iraq.

In the end, the issues were closer to home. Which may also help explain one historic outcome of this year's elections: the first time ever the Dutch Party for Animals will have a place in Parliament with three seats, if current predictions prove correct.

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