Political climate and national elections

An impor­tant devel­op­ment in Dutch pol­i­tics is the fall of the gov­ern­ment on 20 Feb­ru­ary 2010 as a result of diver­gent opin­ions in the gov­ern­ment on the exten­sion of the Dutch Afghanistan mis­sion. Elec­tions took place on 9 June 2010. Dur­ing the debate the focus shift­ed from immi­gra­tion towards the econ­o­my, because of the recent devel­op­ments. Only the anti-immi­gra­tion par­ty of Geerts Wilders, the Par­ty for Free­dom (PVV), held on to the for­mer top­ic. Bud­getary sav­ings on all pos­si­ble pol­i­cy fields were fierce­ly debat­ed and sup­port­ed by strong evi­dence on the need for bud­get cuts pro­vid­ed by the Nether­lands Bureau for Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy Plan­ning (CPB). In the respec­tive pro­grammes of the polit­i­cal par­ties, for­eign pol­i­cy played only a mar­gin­al role. In polit­i­cal debates for­eign pol­i­tics were hard­ly dis­cussed, although this is not uncom­mon in Dutch par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.11M. Grevelink/J. Rood: Het Ned­er­lands buiten­lands beleid in de verkiezin­gen: een analyse, Online pub­li­ca­tion, Insti­tu­ut Clin­gen­dael, Den Haag, 2 June 2010. There was one recur­rent issue in the polit­i­cal pro­grammes of the major­i­ty of the par­ties on for­eign pol­i­tics. They stat­ed that if they are elect­ed part of the next gov­ern­ment, they will strive to reduce the Dutch con­tri­bu­tion to the EU.22See the web­sites of the dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal par­ties, avail­able at: www.cda.nl; www.pvda.nl; www.vvd.nl; www.d66.nl; www.groenlinks.nl; www.Sp.nl; www.pvv.nl; www.cu.nl; www.sgp.nl (last access: 22 June 2010); Gera Arts/Marko Bos: Het Europa-gehalte van de Ned­er­landse verkiezingsprogramma’s, Inter­na­tionale Spec­ta­tor, 64(6), p. 328–331. This accounts amongst oth­ers for the Lib­er­al Con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty (VVD), the Labour Par­ty (PvdA), the Social­ist Par­ty (SP), and the PVV.

The results of the elec­tions tes­ti­fy for a rather com­plex and dis­persed pic­ture of the polit­i­cal land­scape in the Nether­lands. There are sev­en par­ties with 10 or more seats. The focus on eco­nom­ics has been one of the main rea­sons why the VVD led by Mark Rutte came in first with 31 out of 150 seats in par­lia­ment. The VVD became the biggest par­ty in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions for the first time in its his­to­ry. The par­ty was fol­lowed by the PvdA of for­mer may­or of Ams­ter­dam Job Cohen with 30 seats. The PvdA lost three seats, much less than expect­ed in the year pre­ced­ing the elec­tions. Besides Rutte, anoth­er major win­ner was Geert Wilders’ PVV, who came in third with 24 seats (before 9). The biggest losers were the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats (CDA) who lost almost half of their seats (from 41 to 21).

At the time of writ­ing, the for­ma­tion of a new gov­ern­ment is ongo­ing. Three options seem most like­ly. The first option is a right wing gov­ern­ment with the VVD, PVV and the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats (CDA). The CDA is the par­ty of dis­en­gag­ing Prime Min­is­ter Jan-Peter Balke­nende, who resigned as par­ty leader after the 20 seat loss. This is also the rea­son they are hes­i­tant to step into a right wing gov­ern­ment, besides the fact that the par­ty is divid­ed on whether they want to rule with the PVV.33NRC Han­dels­blad: CDA wil nog niet prat­en met VVD en PVV, 16 June 2010. The sec­ond option is a nei­ther-right-nor-left coali­tion formed by the VVD, PvdA, the Lib­er­al Democ­rats (D66), and the Greens (Groen­Links). Until eight years ago the VVD, PvdA, and D66 also ruled the Nether­lands, but now they need an extra par­ty for a major­i­ty in par­lia­ment. The third, less like­ly, option is a cab­i­net in which VVD, PvdA and CDA join forces, although dif­fi­cult in the light of ear­li­er ten­sions between the PvdA and the CDA in the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. Either way nego­ti­a­tions will be tough, since the VVD is in favour of a hard-hit­ting eco­nom­ic reform pol­i­cy whilst the oth­er par­ties, espe­cial­ly PvdA, want to spread the bud­get-cuts over a longer peri­od.44NRC Han­dels­blad: Cohen: Wij zit­ten aan lage kant met bezuinigin­gen, 26 June 2010. Par­ties seem more­over luke­warm with regard to coop­er­a­tion with the PVV, because of its strong posi­tions and because of its lack of seats in the Par­lia­ments’ Upper House. Either way it will be a major first chal­lenge for the new and young Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte, and it is not even cer­tain that he will take up this posi­tion.

    Footnotes

  • 1M. Grevelink/J. Rood: Het Ned­er­lands buiten­lands beleid in de verkiezin­gen: een analyse, Online pub­li­ca­tion, Insti­tu­ut Clin­gen­dael, Den Haag, 2 June 2010.
  • 2See the web­sites of the dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal par­ties, avail­able at: www.cda.nl; www.pvda.nl; www.vvd.nl; www.d66.nl; www.groenlinks.nl; www.Sp.nl; www.pvv.nl; www.cu.nl; www.sgp.nl (last access: 22 June 2010); Gera Arts/Marko Bos: Het Europa-gehalte van de Ned­er­landse verkiezingsprogramma’s, Inter­na­tionale Spec­ta­tor, 64(6), p. 328–331.
  • 3NRC Han­dels­blad: CDA wil nog niet prat­en met VVD en PVV, 16 June 2010.
  • 4NRC Han­dels­blad: Cohen: Wij zit­ten aan lage kant met bezuinigin­gen, 26 June 2010.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.