The Dutch Choice

Wilders Rutte

On 15th March 2017, the Netherlands returns to the polling stations to elect the House of Representatives. This marks the first Cabinet in two decades to complete its official term. Now that the country has overcome the recession, the governing coalition would expect an electoral bonus. However, the Dutch political landscape is fragmented and the formation of a new coalition is likely to be tough, with an estimated four parties needed to get a majority.

The current coalition is made up of two parties: VVD (Liberals) and PvdA (Labour), and is led by Prime Minister Rutte (VVD). The Cabinet faced the greatest recession since the 1930s, which resulted in unprecedented austerity measures and structural reform. The implemented policies seem to have paid off: unemployment is low and economic growth is up – ahead of the EU average. However, instead of support increasing for this coalition, both parties are likely to lose seats, with the PvdA being diminished.

On the right

Most noteworthy is PVV, the party of Geert Wilders. Wilders’ campaign style mimics that of Donald Trump. He uses offensive one-liners, propagates distrust in the media, and uses Twitter as his main campaign instrument – he even published his manifesto (which was only one A4 document) on the platform. Until recently, the PVV was predicted to win the elections, but in recent polls the PVV has seen a decline, to the benefit of the VVD. PM Rutte seems to remain unchallenged, even though his party is likely to lose a considerable number of seats, many Dutch people – even those of other parties – see him as the best candidate for PM.

On the left

The tragedy for the more junior coalition partner PvdA, is that despite safeguarding employment and social issues in overcoming the recession, their voters have nonetheless, lost confidence in the party. GroenLinks (Green left) has now been able to successfully challenge the long-term position of PvdA with political prodigy Jesse Klaver. Polls suggest he can unite people behind him with a positive forward-looking message. He argues for a united left front against the right. Should he be successful, the left-wing parties may be able to form a bloc after the elections, and thus be given a shot at forming a coalition.

Coalition

The election winner will have the power to start coalition negotiations. However, if the other parties are not prepared to negotiate, the winning party may end up empty-handed. A complicating factor in forming a coalition is to get a majority in both the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, which have separate elections. It is expected that that the VVD will take the lead in forming a new coalition that will consist of either a centre-coalition of four or five parties, or a minority Cabinet with informal support from several opposition parties. Although Geert Wilders’ PVV is likely to become one of the biggest parties, virtually no traditional party is willing to form a coalition with them.

Words Willem Bonekamp & Annabel Van Der Meijden
Photo CC/Minsiter-president Rutte

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