The Dutch went to the polls yesterday and could choose between 24 different parties. Commentators love to speculate about the whys but let us for now first concentrate on the very surprising results. A big voter turnout (77% of 13 million) after manual-counting gave 13 parties entry into the 150-seat parliament.
The Outgoing Government Lost Big-Time
The only two parties in the outgoing government together lost no less than 45% of their seats in parliament: The Socialists lost 75% (no typo) and the so-called Liberals (VVD) but actually plain Conservatives lost 20% of their seats. The voters have punished these two parties unprecedentedly.
This administration changed in four years ‘the economy’ from crisis into stability, but in a Right-wing scenario of course at the expense of the population.
In the campaign they promised that the now strong economy would be used for supporting the people who lost so much money and quality of life. Yet, the voters have not believed them or at least wanted to hurt them back. A loss of 45% of your seats cannot be misunderstood as approval — or can it?
Wilders Lost Race for Leading Party
There is a different story with the same election results. After Trump and Brexit, the danger was that Wilders’ populist political party would become the largest in the Low Countries. After these elections, France and Germany will go to the polls and there too we see growing xenophobic movements. Wilder’s party as the biggest would be a scandal and embarrassment for the Liberal Nation, and the falling of yet one more domino too many.
Campaign polls were not reassuring. Populist Wilders (PVV) and outgoing Prime Minister Rutte (VVD) seemed in a neck and neck race. Also a few other parties seemed capable of becoming the largest. No one knew what should happen on election day.
Well, Wilders did win 25% more seats than four years ago but … stayed with 20 seats way behind Rutte who lost 20% but still kept 33 seats – neatly outpacing the tree runner-up parties with their 20, 19 and 19 seats.
Three implications. 1. Never ever trust campaign polls. 2. The Dutch saved their name and reputation as a people that values diversity and hates racism and extremism. 3. Rutte (VVD) could then still claim victory, which he does – while his coalition lost utterly.
The Next Dutch Government
There is a long-standing tradition in The Netherlands that the largest party supplies the prime minister who then tries to form a multiparty majority administration. However, the VVD is the only really Right-wing party of stature and has no more than 31 seats out of 150. For a parliamentary majority, he’s missing no less than 45 seats. He would need at least three more parties, at least one of them a Left-wing one.
Would it not be a chutzpah if a prime minister rejected by the voters would lead the new government? Yes, it would be, but shamelessness is not unknown at the Right or in politics in general.
However, why would the Left, that with Centre parties easily could form a majority administration, settle for sitting with the Right-wing Prime Minister that lost the elections? (In the preliminary results the Left has: 19 + 14 + 14 + 9 + 5 = 62, Christians: 19 + 8, Together a whopping 89.) Compromising with the VVD has now cost the Labor party 75% of its seats. Is it possible that some other party at the Left would make such a mistake again?
- The outgoing government got the voters’ disapproval.
- Populist Wilders lost the race for the largest party by far.
- Leader of the largest party, Rutte, will first try to form a Centre-Right-Left government.
- The Left, if it would not betray its voters, should rebuff Rutte’s avances, leaving only one alternative: a Left-wing-Centre administration – the first one in The Netherlands in 40 years.
- If the other larger parties would learn from the leading Right-wing party, they would unite. That would change the political landscape completely! Look: the Left 62, the Right 33, the Christians 27 seats.
- Wilders will not sit in any government — no one wants or needs him.