By Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska
On November 22, over 13 million citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands entitled to vote will elect the lower house of parliament. These elections will decide who will become the new prime minister after more than 10 years of rule by the current prime minister, Mark Rutte from the conservative liberal VVD party, and will determine the direction of the new government. Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government collapsed in July over differences over how to curb the influx of asylum seekers.
Who can become the new prime minister?
Four candidates have a chance to replace Rutte.
Dilan Yesilgoz, leader of the right-wing liberal VVD party and a Turkish immigrant herself, who would be the first female prime minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Frans Timmermans, former EU climate chief who heads the joint mandate of the Labor Party and the Green Left.(PvdA/GroenLinks)
Pieter Omtzigt, a former Christian Democrat who founded his own protest party “New Social Contract”, focused on reforming the Dutch political system. (NSC)
Geert Wilders, a long-time anti-Islam politician who has recently positioned his Freedom Party as more moderate in hopes of joining the government.(PVV)
The final poll presented by a leading Dutch opinion pollster Maurice de Hond shows that the general elections will be fiercely contested. The first 6 parties in a parliament consisting of 150 seats are: PVV 29 seats in parliament, PvdA/GroenLinks 28, VVD 26, NSC 19, D66 8, BBB 6.
In these elections, the main driving force behind the electoral changes is the loss of support of the four current ruling parties (VVD, D66, CDA en ChristenUnie). While in September it seemed that those who turned away from the government parties were mainly focused on support for Pieter Omtzigt/NSC and to a lesser extent for PvdA/GroenLinks, there has been a clear reversal of course in the last 10 days. The PVV and Geert Wilders play a much more important role in the elections. The reason is that among potential NSC and VVD voters there is much greater reluctance towards forming the government with Timmermans’ PvdA/GroenLinks than towards forming the government with Wilders’ PVV.
Wilders particularly managed to gain support during successful television debates in which he spoke in favor of stopping migration waves, which is supported by a large part of right-wing voters. Additionally, the statements of the VVD and NSC denying the possible participation of the PVV in forming the government opened the door to strategic voting. Maurice de Hond says, the election result will be dictated by whether the reluctance of right-wing voters towards PvdA/GroenLinks-Timmermans is bigger than the reluctance of left-wing voters towards PVV-Wilders.
It is worth adding that the group of left-wing voters in the Netherlands is currently much smaller than the group of right-wing voters. But on the other hand, there is much stronger competition on the right-wing side than on the left-wing side, and neither of them is on track to win more than 20% of the votes. PvdA/GroenLinks can win over 2/3 of left-wing voters. In the case of PVV it is at most more than 1/3.
Main themes of the campaign
The Dutch election campaign focused mainly on three issues: immigration, living standards and climate change. Unemployment in the Netherlands is below 4% and the key social problems include: shortages in the housing market, health care, and the growing economic gap between the rich and the poor. Immigration, limiting the number of asylum seekers and economic migrants is also an important topic of these elections. Voters motivated by the climate crisis say the country must accelerate investment in green infrastructure.
The first meeting of the new parliament is scheduled for December 6. The party that turns out to be the largest traditionally takes the initiative by appointing the first negotiator.
Photos and text: © communications-unlimited.nl
Author: Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska is an award-winning international journalist, TV correspondent, author, chief editor of international journalism centre, Central and Eastern Europe Centre, president of the European Institute on Communist Oppression and a sworn translator. She was born in Warsaw, Poland and has also Armenian blood and roots in Lvov, which is part of Ukraine. She has been living in Heerlen, the Netherlands since 2005.