No non-Dutch person should be blamed for not knowing even the larger political picture in this smaller but rich country. This article comes to tell you some of the basic and most current elements. I will bypass any immaterial detail.
The formation of a new government in the Netherlands, 9 weeks after national elections, is completely stuck. Is there any way to unstuck it?
The Netherlands is bordered on the East by Germany, on the South by Belgium / France and on the West by the North Sea and the UK. The commercially strategically placed, mostly won from the Sea, Cold Country for Frogs, as they satirically may call their rain soaked Lower Countries, is a parliamentarian democracy with a royal as head of state who has merely a unifying and symbolic function.
The Dutch hate chauvinism and nationalism (as they are bad for business and international trade and commerce), and their seriousness is hardly offset by a flood of standup artists to no avail trying to have them singing in the constant downpour. The Dutch value calmness and manners. The tallest people in the world are stubborn but friendly. they gave the world some of its greatest artists, from Rembrandt to Van Gogh to Appel, and most-splendid inventors of dykes to the artificial kidney.
The Netherlands holds a rich cultural diversity, with (besides Frisian) its own Germanic language (Nederlands) plus hundreds of dialects. Its secret treasure-chambers are still bulging with riches from its colonial past of centuries.
The Dutch Parliament consists of two Chambers, and the Lower one is the one most in the picture. Just over two months ago, was its last election that is held at least every four years.
The Last Elections
No doubt, famous Dutch tolerance forms the basis for their awareness that democracy is the idea that the majority decides taking minorities into account. And the latter qualification is no dead letter. So did we see in the last elections, no less than 29 political parties vie for 12,980,788 voters’ favor. Kind of different from countries where 4 parties is considered many.
In the end, 13 made it into the 150-seat Second Chamber, with political fractions varying from 2 to 33 seats. An administration with majority support now needs to have backing of a alliance of at least four parties. Some have suggested five, and some six, but most consider that kind of crazy – which would disturb the peace.
Negotiations to form such broad coalitions may take many months; the outgoing ministers are only to attend to current affairs and to stay away from controversial or innovative decisions. At present, the press has been following 9 weeks of slow and fruitless negotiations.
The previous administration consisted of the most conservative party (VVD) and the moderately socialist Labor Party (PvdA). They supposedly had to take tough economic measures to “save” the financial system. Now the economy is again skyrocketing, was the story in the past two months, but that was too late to soothe the voters’ fury for the sole two coalition parties. The Right-Wing VVD fell from 41 back to 33 seats; Labor, the PvdA, was almost obliterated when it plunged from 38 to a shocking 9 seats – almost a splinter party.
One would think that the voter deserves now a government from any party but these two, but that’s not how it works in the Low Countries. To understand that simply, let’s first look at the numbers from the last elections. To comprehend anything, one needs to categorize the parties.
Green Left (GL) won the most, went up from 4 to 14 seats
The Socialist Party (SP) stayed about steady, went from 15 to 14 seats
Labor (PvdA) lost the most, went down from 38 to 9 seats
Animal Party (PvdD) won immensely, went up from 2 to 5 seats
Total the Left: lost, went down from 59 to 52
Conservatives (VVD) lost immensely, from 41 to 33 seats
Tea Party Wilders (PVV) won immensely, from 15 to 20 seats
Democratic Forum (FvD) new at 2 seats
Total the Right: stayed about steady, from 56 to 55
Green 1966 (D66) won immensely, from 12 to 19 seats
Seniors Party (50+) doubled, from 2 to 4 seats
Migrants (Denk) entered at 3 seats
Total the Center: won immensely, went up from 14 to 26
Christian Democrats (CDA) won immensely, from 13 to 19 seats
Conservative Christian Union (CU) stayed steady, at 5 seats
Most Conservative Dutch Reformed (SGP) stayed steady, at 3 seats
Total the Christians: won, went up from 21 to 27
That means that the Center and Christians won. The biggest winners were the Centrist D66 and the Green Left. One would think that the next government coalition would be Center-Christian, but: so far not.
Principles to Form a Coalition
1. Everyone but Wilders himself, agrees not to admit Wilders to their coalition. He’s out, period. He calls that undemocratic but that’s the pot calling the cattle black from a populist who’s trashing minorities.
2. Though the largest Right-Wing Party VVD lost substantially, it’s still the largest party, so it should again be in the coalition. If not, the two largest parties would be outside (Wilders and VVD) and that doesn’t feel good to the Dutch who traditionally keep the Left from dominating politics.
3. No Left-Wing or Center party now wants to make the same mistake as Labor did in the last administration, just enabling the Right-Wing VVD to do its thing and then lose 75% of their seats at the next polls. That means that no four or five party coalition with the VVD plus Center could be formed. There are no suicidal Left-Wing parties left.
4. The most obvious next coalition should be formed by the winning parties, without the Right-Wing VVD with which the voters were displeased. However, the advisor who needs to suggest coalition combinations is herself from … the VVD. To leave out the VVD is for the Dutch political establishment a thinking so far outside of the box, that they can’t do it. Only the Socialist Party (at 14) keeps asking for such a coalition. (Labor asks nothing. It’s just licking its wounds.)
As we saw above, the biggest winners were (besides Wilders who is no option in any case): Left: Green-Left at 14, Center: D66 at 19, and Christians: CDA at 19. Total 52 seats. Add the Socialist Party at 14 who has been asking for such a kombi and you get with four parties 66 seats. All the big losers are out, all the big winners are in.
For a stable majority (75+ seats) administration, just add to these 66 seats a dozen or so. These can easily be found among Labor (who in such a coalition would not be an outlier) at 9, Animal Party at 5 and Seniors at 4.
A stable Left-Centre coalition could form the next government of the Netherlands. Yet, I don’t think it’s going to happen. The establishment will not think outside the box. The largest anti-establishment party is toothless because Wilders has made himself impossible, both by his racism and by having proved that he’s an unreliable political partner.
Dutch professional politicians will try a conservative minority rule or new elections – anything but a more or less Left-Wing administration. The Dutch are liberal and tolerant, but that is not the same as looking for change, upheaval or revolution. That’s bad for business.