Thursday, June 10, 2010

Elections in the Netherlands

The Netherlands went to the polls yesterday and the election results are the main topic over there: which coalition will be possible?
The message from the voters is confused: the Dutch political landscape has splintered and forming a stable coalition will be an exceptionally difficult task. Perhaps the most dramatic outcome of yesterday's election is the historic loss suffered by the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDA).

The final results are still not in (99.8% is now conted), but the free-market liberal VVD has emerged as the largest party, taking 31 seats. Labour took 30 seats to become the second largest party and Geert Wilders' right-wing, anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) came third with 24 seats. For the first time in its history, the CDA finished a poor fourth: ''CDA was smashed," and its political leader and caretaker Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announcing his resignation as party leader and his departure from Dutch politics. CDA "suffered an historic loss, finishing with just 22 seats, representing a humiliating loss of 19 seats. Mr Balkenende described the result as "very, very disappointing".
Balkenende has accepted the voters' "kiss of death," bye bye!
The VVD may have come out in front, but it is the narrowest victory in Dutch history: until now, the winning party had always emerged with more 40 seats, apart from 1994 when Labour won just 37 seats. Unless Mr Rutte manages to form a stable coalition, this could turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the VVD.

The winners

Yesterday's big winner was Geert Wilders; the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) jumped from nine to 24 seats and Wilders told his jubilant supporters, "the political establishment will not be able to ignore us any more," adding, "this is a glorious day for the entire country" and "grab the battering rams, we're going to give them hell". Once a protest party now a movement but not able to govern but good in populism.
The other big winners were the GreenLeft and the D66 liberals and both parties are likely to be asked to join the new coalition government. D66 leader Alexander Pechtold increased his party's share of the vote by seven seats, taking them to 10,  while last year's opinion polls predicted more than 20 seats for the party.
GreenLeft leader Femke Halsema was over the moon with 11 seats saying "We're the only left-wing party that won today". Right on!

The losers

Yesterday's election sent shockwaves through the political establishment and there were some big losers. The Christian Union (centre left) regrets its standpoint on homosexuality lost one seat and will return just five MPs to the lower house.
The Socialist Party lost nine seats, but SP leader Emile Roemer tries to put positive spin on dramatic loss since he was the relatively unknown who had just two months to save his party from disaster and that the party managed to win 16 seats isn't bad at all.

The animal welfare party  and the ultra conservative Christian SGP kept both their two seats.

Botched

Everybody agree that the Dutch political landscape has been shattered; "the voters have botched it," and  "a huge victory for Wilders' Islam-bashers, and a completely splintered political landscape: this is what the Dutch have chosen in the midst of a deep economic crisis".
Its obvious: the Netherlands is divided. Never before has the message from the voters been so confusing. It will be almost impossible to form a stable governing coalition. The only combination that will have a majority in parliament is, "a coalition of the purple parties and GreenLeft". This means a return to the purple coalition - VVD, Labour and D66 - that ruled in the 1990s, with the addition of the GreenLeft. The Dutch media has dubbed this possible combination as the 'Purple Plus' coalition.
Just 74 percent of the electorate bothered to vote and the turnout was an historic low and it is hard to understand the public's apathy and indifference in these trying times.
One possitive point: Holland became more secular!

Day Opening - June 10

Lighthouse, Crete, Greece