On the Dutch Elections

by Shaker Glauke

I'm gonna assume most of the readers of Shakesville haven't heard too much about the Dutch general elections that were held yesterday. I'm gonna assume you don't know too much about Dutch politics in general (and that's okay—we're a medium power and a medium sized economy; we know our place). So first, the...

We elected our parliament yesterday. There were 150 seats to divide. We have a system of proportional representation, meaning that roughly every vote counts. The turnout is usually quite high, up to some 80% of the electorate. You don't have to register in order to be able to vote. After the elections, at least two parties have to agree on some kind of coalition agreement in order to be able to govern.

This was going to be an important election, that much was clear. Part of our pension system is not exactly demographics-proof; our tax system favours you stupendously if you own a big mansion, but renting a house is prohibitively expensive. We're still recovering from the shocking notion that The Netherlands are in fact an immigration country. Yet, there's a lingering resentment that Muslims are 'taking over' 'our' country.

The turnout was the lowest in years, 70%. I've spent quite some time on the street campaigning, and from what I heard, many people were unsure what to vote, so they didn't come at all.

And the people that did turn up... well... Geert Wilders and his misnamed Freedom Party grew from 9 tot 24 seats. That's right, the conservative, xenophobic, Eurosceptic party almost tripled. Which is more than was predicted. The freemarket party Popular Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) grew from 22 to 31 seats, making them the largest party. Christian Democrats, rather right-wing, fell from 41 to 20 seats. Labour lost a little, ending with 30 votes. Socialist Party fell from 25 to 15 votes. My own party, GreenLeft, led by the briliant Femke Halsema grew a little, from 7 to 10 seats. Our social-liberal brethren D-66 grew from 3 to 10 seats.

Which brings us to the hard part: Who will form the coalition? Mind you, you need at least 76 votes in order to win the vote of confidence in parliament. Coalition forming is usually initiated by the largest party. The VVD. They could ally with Labour, D66, and GreenLeft. But that would leave them wide open for criticism from the right. Or they could attempt to form a coalition with Geert Wilders, Christian Democrats, and the tiny theocratic SGP. But that hinges on the willingness of Wilders and the Christian Democrats to work together, and that's not exactly a given. Plus: What would the theocrats want in return for their support? I shudder at the thought.

So, the people have spoken. We're just not exactly sure what we've tried to say.

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