The governing party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte won a pyrrhic victory in Dutch parliamentary elections yesterday that saw support for establishment political parties decline.

Exit polls released after voting ended across the country revealing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) would remain the party with the largest number of seats in the Dutch House of Representatives, despite a net loss of roughly eight seats.

The Labor Party (PvdA), which currently governs the Netherlands in a coalition with the VVD, suffered historic loses as left-leaning voters gravitated towards the GreenLeft Party (GL). The PvdA is expected to lose 29 seats, bringing its total down to nine, while the GL nearly quadrupled its number of seats from 4 to 14.

Populist candidate Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) picked up five seats, and is expected to become the second largest party, while the more mainstream Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Democrats 66 (D66) will receive 19 seats each.

Anther unexpected beneficiary of the leftist surge was the Think Party (Denk), founded by former Labor politicians of Turkish-origin who launched the movement as Europe’s first party created by migrants. They are set to have three members of parliament.

While Rutte will likely remain Prime Minister, his party’s loss of seats combined with the historic collapse of his party’s coalition partner, will make forming a new coalition government incredibly difficult.

As every major party has ruled out forming a coalition government with Wilders, the remaining center-right parties would fall well short of having enough seats to form a government, necessitating difficult negotiations to form a grand coalition with left-leaning parties such as the Labor Party or the Socialist Party, which won 14 seats.

European leaders were quick to congratulate Rutte on his party’s win, calling it a victory against the brand of populism that fueled Brexit and the victory of President Donald Trump.

“The values of openness, respect for others, and a faith in Europe’s future are the only true response to the nationalist impulses and isolationism that are shaking the world,” said outgoing French President Francois Hollande.

Germany’s foreign ministry noted “large majority of Dutch voters have rejected anti-European policies… That’s good news. We need you for a strong Europe!”

Wilders, whose party did not perform as well as he expected, warned Rutte that he was not going anywhere anytime soon.

“I think our influence has been enormous … Our patriotic spring will continue, will really start. And if they need me or if they need the PVV for talks (on a coalition) then I am happy to take part,” he said.

“If not, then they haven’t seen the back of me yet.”


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