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‘Perhaps a small party in the negotiations after all’

Now the election results are in, how should we interpret them? Time to call Associate Professor in Political Science Tom Louwerse.

Hello Tom, what strikes you most about the results?

‘Above all, that the coalition as a whole has won seats when they usually lose them. This is the first time this has happened since 1998. And within the coalition, that the VVD is the largest party for the fourth time running and appears to have a slight lead. And D66 has won seats, as junior coalition party. In the past their motto was “regeren is halveren”: to serve in government means to halve your seats. And that was generally the case too. Their success appears mainly to be at the expense of GroenLinks. It’s also impressive how D66 has made gains with new parties emerging, such as Volt. And finally how a number of new parties have managed to get into the House of Representatives with a few seats.’

Right wins, left loses and many small new parties: What do these results say about the state of affairs in the Netherlands?

‘The Netherlands has proportional representation, an electoral system in which different opinions can be represented in parliament. That’s what’s happening now. Fragmentation is a trend that has continued since the end of pillarisation. What is more, it isn’t that voters float between all the parties. They waver between a few parties, for instance, the centre left or the centre right, and decide per election whether to vote for one party or the other. Many left progressive voters, many of them highly educated, floated to D66 this time, but D66 can also appeal to voters from the centre right. In the past D66 has lost out to both sides but now they are winning from both instead.’

How influential will the small new parties be?

‘It looks as though VVD and D66 will lead the negotiations. They may invite the CDA for a chat, but the question is whether the CDA feels like it after this loss. And even if you do secure enough seats in the House of Representatives, you certainly don’t in the Senate. That’s important because a large number of dossiers are waiting on decisions, such as how to end the coronavirus crisis. The question then is: do you want to rely on incidental deals with the opposition parties or do you want a fixed coalition to make decisions with? You might just find that the two winners ask a small party to join in the negotiations to consolidate their position in the Senate.’

Text: Jan Joost Aten

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