Dutch election: Will Wilders score and what could this mean?

It seems that PM Mark Rutte’s VVD and Geert Wilders’ PVV will fight for the first place in the upcoming election that takes place on March 15.

Geert Wilders. Credit: 745769

Questions:

1.  If PVV wins it seems that there is no chance Geert Wilders will be able to have create any coalition. So would you say it would be merely a symbolic victory for Wilders or it may have some consequences for the country and for the EU?

2. If VVD wins do you think that PM Mark Rutte will be able to create a functioning coalition or would you say there is also an possibility of  the different government not Rutte 3?

Answers:

Annemarie Walter, Research Fellow, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham

1. The PVV will most likely not participate in any coalition government. Since they have proven to be an unreliable coalition partner during government Rutte 1 and due to their anti immigrant rhetoric most party parties will not consider the PVV as a viable partner. If indeed Wilders receives the 25 seats that it has currently in the polls, this success would indicate a strong signal of discontent of the population with the current policies. It would indeed mark a shift to the right. Even if the PVV will not be part of the coalition government this will have consequences as the other Dutch parties will have to do something with this signal. It will put the issues of immigration, Dutch values and the EU higher on the agenda and it might encourage other parties, such as main electoral competitor VVD that is going to lose seats  to adopt more right or stricter positions on these issues.

2. I do not see why Mark Rutte would not be able to create a functioning coalition. The Netherlands has one of the most proportional representative electoral systems in the world, so we are used to the practice that a large number of parties participates in the elections. Currently the party landscape is very fragmented, but we have also seen that before historically and we have always been able to form a coalition government. Regardless this level of party fragmentation that we are experiencing now, I do not expect that we will not be able to form a coalition. Remember the last elections when we also ended up with a very divided electoral landscape with no clear winner. At the end the Labour Party and the Liberal Party set their differences aside and found a way to cooperate as it was necessary for this country. I think it is most likely that we will again get a coalition government under the leadership of Mark Rutte. It is in theory possible that we would get a leftwing cabinet constituting of PvdA, SP, GreenLeft, D66 and CDA. However, I think that this chance is very small due to the reluctance of the CDA. The Christian Democrats, which is traditionally a center party have a substantial number of supporters that can be considered on the topic of immigration and the economy right wing. They might fear alienating these supporters.  We also have not had a pure left wing government before, this would be a historical novelty.

Pepijn Bergsen, Europe Analyst, Economist Intelligence Unit

1. I would say it would be mostly a symbolic victory should Mr Wilders win the largest number of seats in the election, or even if he comes in a close second. It seems highly unlikely that he would be able to form a government in that case, let alone that he actually wants to take on the responsibility of governing. A PVV win would highlight the gradual drop in support for the traditional mainstream parties in the Netherlands over the last decades, a development mirrored in many other EU countries. Although it would be a symbolic blow to the EU, in practical terms the impact would be limited. It would be likely to embolden the Front National a bit in France but, like in the Netherlands, that election is driven mainly by domestic considerations.

2. Given current polls it seems highly unlikely that any coalition without the VVD of prime minister Rutte would be possible. There is still a strong preference for majority governments in the Netherlands and given the strong fragmentation of the political scene, it would require five or six parties to keep the VVD out. Furthermore, Mr Rutte is quite adept at forging coalitions, even with those who previously opposed him, and we would expect him to be best placed to form a government after March 15th. However, this is also likely to consists of a relatively large number of parties and thus likely to be relatively unstable and there is a very good chance that coalition negotiations will drag on for a very long time, leading to a prolonged period of policy paralysis.

Andy Langenkamp, Senior Political Analyst, ECR Research

1. Wilders is already influencing the country since he has drawn politicians of the VVD and CDA to the right on issues like migrants. It sometimes is like opposition politicians said to PM Rutte yesterday during a debate: when it comes to the EU, Rutte sometimes talks like a PVV politician when in The Hague and acts like a pro-European when in Brussels. Of course, many politicians do that, but still….

If Wilders wins the elections, the real trouble will be that almost no one wants to work with the PVV, so a new coalition of probably 4-5 parties will need to work around Wilders. But that leaves many, many voters feeling disregarded and I am  very curious to find out how a new coalition government wil try and accommodate these PVV voters.

2. I think chances are low that Rutte won’t be able to start his third term as PM if the VVD wins the elections. If the VVD wins, Rutte will be dealt the task to try and form a coalition government. Most other parties would be very relieved that Wilders didn’t get out on top and would probably willing to compromise in order to enable a coalition government. Moreover, Rutte is known to be a skilled negotiator and most of his colleagues in The Hague like him. However, most insiders here in The Netherlands fear that forming a government could take ages. I don’t think we will beat Belgium’s record of the longest period without an elected government, but a Dutch record could definitely in the cards.

By the way, elections for the Senate won’t take place before 2019. That means that in the next few years no law will be able to pass the Senate without support of at least four parties.

Another interesting fact is that the last time the Netherlands had a government consisting of over 3 parties was in the 1970s. Actually, until the 1980s it was normal to have coalition governments of 4 or even 5 parties.

Tom van der Meer, Professor in Political Science, University of Amsterdam

1. Dutch politics are not at all about the question which party will be the largest. The largest party at this election may not obtain more than 1 in 6 votes, and thereby 1 in 6 seats in parliament. Any victory will definitely be framed (by Wilders, or by media) as a symbolic victory, but that seems quite nonsensical.

2. Both are serious possibilities. Yet, most likely is a coalition centered around three center-right parties (including the VVD), that would then need additional support from the center-left.

 

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