AMSTERDAM Two publicly-funded websites used by Dutch voters to help them decide which party to vote for in their national election were inaccessible on Wednesday, apparently victims of a cyber attack.
The sites, "Stemwijzer" and "Kiescompas", are extremely popular, with nearly half of eligible voters using one or the other in the last national election in 2012. However, most voters use them in the weeks ahead of voting, not on election day.
Organisers of Stemwijzer tweeted confirmation that their website was being subjected to a distributed denial-of-service, or 'DDoS' attack.
"Our website has alas just been hit by a DDoS attack. Our priority is in getting the StemWijzer back on line again as quickly as possible," they said in a tweet Wednesday morning.
Spokeswoman Anita de Jong of ProDemos, the organisation that runs the Stemwijzer, later said the site was accessible again but added the site remained under attack.
"We're seeing a lot of international traffic. What happens is we are able to solve the problem for a while, and then it resurfaces," she said.
The "StemWijzer" or "voting compass" site asks potential voters 30 questions and then tells them which party best matches their opinions.
Experts say voters rarely change their mind based on the results and have usually decided which party they intend to vote for in advance, with the site acting as a confirmation.
It was not clear whether Wednesday's attacks were related to a Dutch diplomatic row with Turkey that broke out over the weekend, which led to the temporary defacement of numerous small websites in the Netherlands.
Separately on Wednesday, several large Twitter accounts including that of the European Parliament, Reuters Japan, Die Welt, Forbes, Amnesty International and Duke University were hijacked temporarily, apparently by Turkish activists.
In January, the Dutch government decided that all votes in the election would be hand-counted, after the intelligence agency warned foreign governments could attempt to influence elections by hacking computer systems.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Julia Glover)