Editor’s Note: This article tries to be as neutral and informative as possible. However, this is all simplified through the eyes of the writer and could miss what you might perceive as essential information. This is not on purpose.
By Vincent Noteboom
–On March 15th, the Netherlands will elect a new government. This article will offer an overview of the seven biggest political parties and their views. These seven are the largest political parties in the following polls, Kantar Public, peil.nl van Maurice de Hond, de politieke barometer van Ipsos Synovate, I&O Research, de Stemming van Een Vandaag, LISS panel, NOS Peilingwijzer. These polls are consistently the most referenced concerning predictions of voter behaviour in the Netherlands. However, due to the unique way in which the Netherland’s election system operates, smaller parties could potentially become influential in determining a future government as well. In fact, it is almost certain that two or more are going to be part of the coalition that forms the future government of the Netherlands. Here is a simplification how the Dutch government operates.
The Dutch government operates on three levels, municipality, province and state. The upcoming elections are to elect the members of the second chamber. This is the most powerful political organ in the Dutch state. The second chamber has the power to change and create laws. The second chamber has 150 seats. To form a government the party or parties need to have at least 75 of those seats. The Netherlands always has coalition governments, theoretically it could be a one-party government. However, this has never occurred. The parties do need to be able to find common ground to form a government. The non-government parties are what is referred to as the opposition. The government does the daily task of ruling the country. The chamber votes on suggestions of changing or adding laws. This is why a majority in the second chamber is needed. The first chamber is just as control of the second chamber and votes on laws after they have been approved by the second chamber. The first chamber is not elected directly by the people. They are elected by the provinces who are in turn elected by the people.
Now some of you might think; “why should I care about this”? Well the Netherlands is a very centralised country were, depending on the outcome of the elections, the government can make very fundamental changes. It goes from small inconveniences as removing student public transport (OV) to very large ones, like leaving the European Union (E.U.). Let’s go quickly over the main visions of those essential parties so you can know what is probably going to happen when the outcome of the elections is published. Keep in mind this is all very simplified information. If you want real in depth answer to certain political issues check out their political programs. (Google translate or a Dutch friend could go a long way).
The current Dutch government exists out of two parties, the Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD) or (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), lead by prime minister Mark Rutte, and the Partij van de Arbeid (PVDA) or (The Labour Party). From the start, this coalition has been criticised for the considerable ideological gap between the two parties: The VVD favours personal freedom and lower taxes while stimulating the improvement of the regulated economy. Whereas, the PVDA seeks social security for the poor and protection of the employee against the employer. Both parties do believe in the regulated market and social security, though they do not agree upon how and with what means. This is especially evident in the wish for higher taxes by the PVDA and lower economic regulations desired by the VVD. The current government is referred to as Rutte II, as it is common to use the last name of the prime minister and place a number behind his name to indicate if it is his first, second, etc. term.
The current government came together in 2012 and has successfully navigated the Netherlands out of the euro crisis resulting in significant growth in both employment rates and the economy itself, as is visible in the numbers published by CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics). The PVDA has been criticized for compromising too much on their own ideology to suit the VVD’s . . .. The prime minister Mark Rutte has also come under criticism because of his lack of vision. which he himself acknowledged in a public lecture. The prime minister stated that vision is like an elephant blocking the view on possibility. This has led to many people thinking of him as an uncharismatic leader. This government will be the first government to finish its entire term in the last eighteen years, creating, much needed stability for the Netherlands. VVD is predicted to receive the second most seats by the polls at the moment. The PVDA averages the seventh most seats between those polls.
The leading party in every poll right now is the Partij Voor de Vrijheid (PVV) or (the Freedom party). The PVV is led by Geert Wilders, a highly controversial character within Dutch and European politics. The PVV aims at restoring the Netherlands to its ‘former’ glory by leaving the E.U. and blocking the influence from immigrants, especially those who are Muslim. Geert Wilders himself has been sued multiple times for discrimination and hate speech. The most famous instance of this would be him polemically asking a large audience, if they desired more or less Moroccans during a televised speech. The audience shouted less. Not only the party leader, but multiple party members have been connected with criminal activities, such as discrimination and harassment. The argument the PVV makes is that the Dutch culture and cultures associated with Islam are fundamentally incompatible and should therefore not try to coexist. They have a strong anti-globalist and anti-European vision and also preach the necessity to protect the Dutch working class. The likelihood of them becoming part of the government is considered to be very slim.
The PVV was part of Rutte I and famously walked out on their coalition partner during negotiations, resulting in the collapse of that coalition. As a result many parties have spoken out against ever cooperating with PVV again. This includes the party leader of the VVD who declared in Trouw, a Dutch newspaper, that a coalition with the PVV was out of question. The Netherlands have never seen a single party government in the modern era and it seems unlikely PVV can be part of any possibly coalition.
The third party in the polls is D66 or Democrats 66. D66 is the party currently in control of Amsterdam and is the biggest political party amongst voting students. D66 proclaims that they do not support a single ideology, but rather have a pragmatic view that highly depends on individual issues . They are the most Pro-E.U. party and are one of the most progressive parties sharing views ranging from the right to the left, though they are slightly off-centred to the left in most cases. Their advocacy for green energy and progressive laws are what most voters like about them. This includes the desire to further decriminalize drugs and push for the use of more solar energy. D66 is led by Alexander Pechtold. Alexander Pechtold and Geert Wilders have had many debates and are very hostile towards each other’s view on the future of the Netherlands. D66 is criticized for being to willing to give over power to the E.U. and their strong push for decentralization of major government-run structures like education.
The next party to discuss is the Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA) or (Christian Democratic Appeal). The CDA shares views with D66, PVDA and VVD, but unlike them, their ideology derives from the idea of brotherhood. They desire both religious interests and individualism. They and all the other parties named previously do not oppose gay rights like gay marriage and the CDA also desires to protect the rights of all religious people, with Christians no occupying a special position. CDA is a moderate party off-centred to the left with strong religious values. They advocate a more conservative economic view and more restrictions for employers as well as a need for more and harsher punishments. The CDA and all parties except for the PVV also stress the importance of prevention of crime in their agenda points, by ensuring the possibility of proper schooling for example. CDA is also pro-European Union.
The two other smaller but possibly significant parties are GroenLinks and Socialist Party (SP). GroenLinks or Green Leftist party is on the left between the PVDA and SP with a strong focus on renewable energy and the protection of the environment. The SP is in favour of raising the taxes for the higher middle class and all above them, they are anti-EU and for a very strongly regulated economy.
To have a majority in the government 75/150 or more seats are needed, here are the averages for the current polls of the 7 biggest parties today.
- PVV – 29 seats
- VVD – 24 seats
- D66- 16 seats
- CDA – 16 Seats
- GroenLinks- 16 seats
- SP – 14 seats
- PVDA – 12 Seats
As we have learned from the past two major polls, United States presidential elections and Brexit, polls can be completely off. With this I hope that some of you now have more of an idea what is happening in dutch politics. Even Though, politics can be very boring this election might have strong implications also for international students. Especially, the PVV and SP their strong anti-E.U. views are worrisome for some. As mentioned before it does seem very unlikely either of them will become part of the next government.