Photo by Erik Smit (Public Domain)
On the 17th March, the Dutch public went to the polls to elect a new government. The Netherlands, like the UK, is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, which means that their Head of State is the current monarch which, at the moment is King Willem-Alexander who acceded to the throne in 2013 following his mother’s abdication. Therefore, they also elect a Prime Minister. However, apart from that the political structure of the Government of the Netherlands is quite different from the UK. The Netherlands have a 2 house system but they have the Senate as their Upper house and the House of Representatives which is the lower house. Unlike the UK’s Upper House (The House of Lords) the Senate is indirectly elected by members of provincial assemblies who themselves are directly elected (aka by the people).
In this election all 150 members of the House of Representatives were being elected. There were 37 parties which met the requirements in order to participate in the election. In the end the VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie) aka The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy came first in the election for the 4th consecutive time with Prime Minister Mark Rutte remaining in office. Mark Rutte has been in office since the 14th October 2010 when he was the second-youngest Prime Minister in Dutch history. He is also currently the third-longest serving Prime Minister in Dutch history at 10 years and 162 days. Now time to analyse the results for each party.
The Netherlands uses the system of Proportional Representation which means that candidates are elected in proportion to their support from voters. The voters also rank the candidates in order of preference and there is a certain percentage of votes a candidate needs to get to win a seat. This often results in coalition governments because the number of seats won is often lower than the quota. For example the quota for a majority in the HOR is 76 seats. The VVD got 21.8% of the votes which means they got 34 seats (1 more than the last election) so they would have to form a majority. The party in 2nd, D66 (Democraten 66), got 15% of the vote gaining 24 seats (+5 from the last election).
The VVD usually forms a coalition with about 4 parties because as you can see the VVD and D66’s seats only add up to 58. In the past the VVD has formed a coalition with the CDA (Christen-Democratisch Appèl aka Christian Democratic Appeal) and the CU (ChristenUnie aka Christian Union). This would work this time as the CDA got 9.5% of the vote so 15 seats and the CU got 3.4% so 5 seats which would take the number of seats to 78 so there would be a majority. This would be a conscious decision rather than just the parties in 3rd and 4th, because while the CDA did get the 4th most votes the 3rd most votes went to the PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid aka Party for Freedom) whose ideology is right-wing populism, which is quite different to the VVD whose ideology is conservative liberalism (which is centre-right wing). This rise of the right-wing to far-right wing political parties in the Netherlands is slightly alarming. The two main right-wing parties: the PVV and the FvD (Forum voor Democratie aka Forum for Democracy) together got 25 seats, that’s one more than the party in 2nd. That’s 1,646,124 for the right to far right wing. On the plus side the PVV are down 3 seats but that is basically cancelled out by the fact that the FvD gained 6 seats, and they were only founded in 2016. The strange thing about the PVV is that it only has one member which is the leader Geert Wilders who disabled new member registration after creating the party and doesn’t hold public party conferences.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Before the 2017 election all the parties said they would not form a coalition with the PVV if it got the most votes and, Mark Rutte ruled out a coalition with the PVV and FvD. Also 810,000 people could vote for the first time with new voters making up about 5% of the population and according to DutchNews.nl young voters tend to come out in force with 76% of under 25s casting a ballot. From what I’ve seen and from example’s in other countries (like the UK), young people tend to vote more for the centre to left wing which may be the reason why D66 is doing so well this time and the far-left party BIJ1 gaining a seat in the House for the first time. Although it has to be said that from voting trends that I’ve seen and speaking to some of my Dutch friends, the party that is usually popular with young people, GroenLinks (GreenLinks) which as the name suggests represents green politics, has had quite an unsuccessful election losing 6 of their seats, going from 14 seats to 8 seats.