As Dutch voters go to the polls this week for the parliamentary election, the pandemic has changed the usual dynamics.
To maintain the social distance, the voting process was spread over three days and ends on Wednesday. Voters over the age of 70 were encouraged to vote by mail. And campaigns have taken place mainly on television, making it difficult for voters to confront politicians spontaneously, as is typical practice.
Coronavirus cases are rising again in the Netherlands, which should warn authorities about a third wave. Last year, it took Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government until November to get the country’s testing capacity in order, and the vaccination process is also slow.
Yet more localized issues during the campaign overshadowed the government’s handling of the coronavirus.
The prime minister and his cabinet resigned in January over a scandal involving the tax authorities in the hunt for people, mostly poor, who made administrative mistakes in their child benefit requests. Many were consequently brought to financial ruin.
Broader policy adopted by Mr. Rutte, who has been in power since 2010, was also a focus of the campaign. While his party is ahead in the polls, it has lost support over the past few weeks.
Neighboring Germany is also entering a crowded election season, with national and state votes coming in a year that will end Angela Merkel’s 16-year chancellorship.
In other developments around the world:
After nine months of negotiations, New Zealand and Australia intends to launch a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two countries in April, according to local reports. New Zealand and Australia have eliminated the distribution of communities besides, responding to occasional clusters with many localized restrictions or closures.
Australia will send 8,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine to Papua New Guinea in an effort to curb a rapidly growing outbreak in the country, which is the closest neighbor of Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Said Wednesday. Australia will also ask AstraZeneca to send one million vaccine doses to Australia. And it suspends all charter flights from Papua New Guinea, where about half of the country’s total, up report 2,351 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the past two weeks.