Dutch election yesterday, with preliminary results as follows, via Parties and Elections in Europe:
|Party - Preliminary results (99,5%) -||Ideology, Affiliation, Founding||2012||Seats||2010||Seats|
|Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD)
People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy
|Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA)
|Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV)
|Socialistische Partij (SP)
|Christen Democratisch Appèl (CDA)
Christian Democratic Appeal
|Democraten 66 (D66)
|Christen Unie (CU)
| Christian democracy
|Groen Links (GL)
|Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP)
Reformed Political Party
| Christian right
|50 Plus (50+)
|Partij voor de Dieren (PvdD)
Party for the Animals
If you’re anything like me, you see a gazillion parties in a PR system, many of which have names with far too many vowels, and yes, there’s a party in parliament called Party for the Animals, but what does it all mean?
Here’s the gist of it:
- The “business-liberal” VVD has obtained its best result ever under its leader, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, but VVD’s minority coalition partner, CDA, lost almost as many seats as VVD gained.
- The election was caused by the decision of Geert Wilders‘ anti-Islamic, anti-EU PVV to withdraw support for the government; PVV lost a bunch of seats. Well, good.
- The social democratic PvdA (aka Labour) has reversed a seemingly hopeless trend of losing seats. I wish it had happened under their last leader, the wonderful former mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, but good on you, Diederik Samsom – the Labour leader apparently did quite well in the debates.
- The formerly dominant Christian Democratic Appeal has been sinking election by election into an unexpected near-oblivion, losing 20% support in ten years (from 28.6 in 2003 to 8.5 in 2012).
- As for the smaller parties, the most notable results were the emergence of an eleventh party in the Tweede Kamer (because every country needs more than ten parties in a 150-seat legislature?), 50-Plus, representing seniors; and a poor showing for the leftist environmentalist GL.
The simplest analysis is as follows: PVV lost support to the VVD for being anti-EU / pulling the plug on the government, PvdA picked up support from the GL. Given that the CDA is Christian yet centrist, its losses likely benefited both the individualist VVD and collectivist PvdA.
Dutch elections have always been messily democratic but in the past decade it all just got so ugly, what with the anti-Islamic politics and the assassinations and the shockingly illiberal administrations. The rise of the Socialist Party (now seemingly in check) has also been tricky for government formation, and the VVD kept spitting out xenophobic mavericks like Wilders and Rita Verdonk.* For moderates, yesterday’s election had, I think, a good result.
Now, as to government formation, here are some numbers. The government needs 76 seats:
- VVD-CDA (current cabinet) 56; with PVV support, 69 – no majority
- VVD-PvdA (two largest parties) 80 – majority
- VVD-PvdA-D66 (so-called “purple coalition” dominant in the 90s, business-liberal/social-democratic/social-liberal) 92 – vast majority
- PvdA-CDA-D66 (centre-left coalition that excludes VVD) 64 – no majority; with SP support (not gonna happen) 79 – majority
- VVD-CDA-D66 (centrist coalition that excludes Labour) 66 – no majority; with PVV support (not gonna happen; D66 wouldn’t go for it) 81 – majority
In other words, it’s unlikely that a coalition could be formed without VVD or PvdA, unless marginal or small parties are called in for support, and that opens up a whole new can of worms: both the evangelical SGP and the PvdD are “testimonial,” Socialists refuse to go into government, PVV is objectionable to the leftist parties, etc.
A new purple coalition is a nice idea, though – I see no reason why classical and social liberals and social democrats can’t work together, and the need to keep PvdA and D66 happy would allow Rutte to keep the xenophobes and populists at bay. Still, Rutte might well take the more stable option of a simple VVD-PvdA coalition, and why not? It’s been two decades since a two-party majority government has been even possible.
And maybe such a coalition would legalize marijuana for foreigners again, because from what I hazily recall, that was pretty cool.
* A few thoughts about the xenophobic trend in Dutch politics. I should start by saying that of course I am aghast at how folks like Pim Fortuyn, Wilders, and Verdonk have scapegoated Islam, but having spent time in the Netherlands during the 2006 election, talking to folks in Amsterdam about this issue, it’s not as black-and-white as the once-tolerant Dutch suddenly turning into rabid racists.
While we think of xenophobic politics as inherently right-wing, it’s worth noting that none of the prominent anti-Islamic politicians have come from the right. Quite the contrary: Pim Fortuyn was a former Communist and PvdA member; Wilders and Verdonk started in the liberal VVD. That’s not a coincidence, nor is the fact that none of these politicians idealized Judeo-Christian values: Fortuyn was an atheist, Wilders is an agnostic, Verdonk a lapsed Catholic.
The uncomfortable fact for us social liberals is that the evil right-wing Arab-haters are, in their minds, protecting secular, liberal Dutch values, specifically the individual rights of women and gays, from evil right-wing Arab haters (hope you caught that subtle punctuation thing I did just there).
I must have discussed politics with a hundred people while I was in the Netherlands: all from Amsterdam, many gay, certainly none of whom would be considered right-wing here except that they all, all, hated Islam. I’m not defending this; “I hate them because they hate us” is still ugly and bad politics; but that’s how many secular, “liberal” Dutch people see it, especially since the assassinations of Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh – and of course there’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali, once the foremost critic of Islam in the Netherlands, former VVD member of the Tweede Kamer, and not exactly a white racist.
Yes, it’s very complicated.