Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will begin talks on the formation of a new coalition government after ignoring setbacks to win a comfortable victory in a national election marked by increased support for progressive and pro-European forces. .
With 80% of the votes counted, Rutte’s liberal-conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) was on track to win 35 seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, two more than in the previous 2017 poll. , which ensured him a fourth consecutive term.
Rutte survived a mediocre record on the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 16,000 people in the Netherlands, three nights of curfew riots and a child benefits scandal that forced his cabinet to resign in January. .
The popular prime minister benefited from a momentum around the flag at the start of the pandemic last year and, despite a recent drop in polls, retained the confidence of many voters who clearly preferred stability in times of crisis.
“The voters have given my party an overwhelming vote of confidence,” Rutte said after the first results were known. “I think everyone wants a new cabinet as soon as possible. We are in the middle of a very serious crisis and we will do our best ”.
The big winner, however, was D66, a progressive, socially liberal and pro-European party named after the year it was founded and led by a former UN diplomat, Sigrid Kaag.
D66 won a record 24 seats, five more than last time, to finish second. It surpassed Rutte’s other main coalition partner, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), which lost four seats to 15, and far-right anti-Islamist populist Geert Wilders, whose Freedom party (PVV) lost three MPs and was on its way. by 17.
It should also change the dynamics of the coalition and may even make the hardliner Netherlands, one of the ‘frugal’ group of four fiscally conservative EU member states that oppose a common European budget and collective debt, a little more conciliatory in Europe.
Kaag, whose campaign highlighted her gender and cosmopolitan background (married to a Palestinian, has spoken out strongly against racism in the Netherlands) tweeted a picture of herself dancing on a table in celebration.
He described the result as “a great responsibility” but added that he expected the government’s policy to be notably “more progressive, fairer and greener” than in the past four years.
“The real question now is: what can D66 get out of the new coalition?” said Cas Mudde, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. “He no longer has an excuse to sell his left sociocultural agenda to satisfy his right wing socio-economic agenda and his coalition partners.”
Pro-Europeans were also encouraged by the performance of Volt, a pan-European party launched in 2017, which won four seats. However, the big losers were the left-wing parties, which analysts now expect will be forced to make major changes.
The Dutch Labor Party (PvdA), which lost three-quarters of its seats in a catastrophic demonstration in 2017, was unable to regain any, remaining at nine, while GreenLeft, one of the big winners in 2017, lost half of its MPs. to finish with seven and the Socialist Party detached itself from five, clinging to nine.
On the far right, while Wilders’ PVV was worse than in 2017, Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy (FvD) won six seats to end in eight after fighting a populist campaign that promised to abolish US blockade measures. Covid.
A new far-right party, JA21, founded by two separatist members of the FvD, was on track to take four seats, meaning that the combined far-right parties in the Netherlands will now have more deputies in parliament than the parties. left combined.
With nearly a record 37 parties running for office and 17 looking likely to make it to parliament, the shape of any future government is still up in the air. Coalitions can take months, and negotiations in 2017 lasted a record 208 days.
Rutte has ruled out a coalition with Wilders and Baudet, but said he would “obviously” look to work with D66 again and that Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra’s CDA would also be a “natural partner.” However, it appears that those three parties do not reach a majority of 76 seats, which means that the coalition is likely to need a fourth member.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism