Dutch voters are heading to the polls. What time can we expect to know the outcome?

Other than pictures of taller than average people walking into voting booths – and an enormous media and security scrum around Geert Wilders – there will not be much to see until 9pm (CET).

This is when polls close and Ipsos will publish a snap exit poll, which will give the first indication of how the race is looking.

A clear picture of how the election went will start to emerge after midnight, when results from larger municipalities start to come in. By the early hours of the morning, we will know the rough size of each of the 28 parties on the ballot box. Dutch broadcaster NOS and newswire ANP compile the preliminary, unofficial results.

Do not expect to have an instant picture of the next Dutch government, though. Politics in the Netherlands has fragmented. No party is expected to get more than 20 per cent, but six parties are expected to get more than 10 per cent.

As a result a four or five coalition party is necessary, which will take months to negotiate. Even smaller coalitions take an average of over two months to sort out, according to Rabobank. Some senior politicians predict it may take until September.

A final result will not be published until 21 March. Dutch voters can express a preference for a particular MP as well as just a party. These votes must be totted up, which is lengthy process.

Politics in the Netherlands is a marathon, not a sprint.

For a full run-down of what’s at stake and how the process works, read this.

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