March 13, 2017
Voters throughout the Netherlands will be heading out to their nearest polling stations on 15th March and the eyes of Europe – and particularly the European Union (EU) – will be on the country to discover the make-up of the next Dutch government.
This particular election in the Netherlands is fascinating given the spectacular number of parties attempting to form part of a new government. There are 28 individual parties and candidates available to vote for. That in itself underlines the fragmented political environment that currently exists in the Netherlands.
Early indications suggest that Geert Wilders, the leader of the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) is gaining nationalist support, but it would appear unlikely that Wilders will win enough votes to form a majority government, given that none of the mainstream Dutch political parties have displayed any appetite to form a coalition with PVV.
Let’s take a closer look at the leading candidates for the 2017 Dutch Election:
The leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), Geert Wilders is a politician who left Mark Rutte’s Liberal Party back in 2004 to become part of the PVV. As previously stated, the lack of any potential allies within the mainstream parties means that Wilder is unlikely to secure a leadership position within government.
Lodewijk Asscher – Labor Party
The leader of the Labor Party (PvdA) since December 2016, Lodewijk Asscher is already part of the current coalition government as the deputy prime minister and minister of social affairs. Asscher faces a battle to convince enough voters that he and his party have the wherewithal to counterbalance the recent austerity measures the Dutch government has undertaken.
Mark Rutte – Liberals
The incumbent Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is overseeing the current coalition between the Liberals and the Labor Party. Rutte is all set to complete a full term of a Dutch coalition government – the first time this has occurred since 1998 and not a mean feat considering Rutte has had to mould a government between two parties with distinct ideological differences.
Sybrand van Haersma Buma – Christian Democrats
Leader of the Christian Democrats, van Haersma Buma has been a member of parliament for 15 years. His right-of-centre party appears to be attempting to tap into the wave of nationalism that’s been spreading with Geert Wilder’s PVV, discussing issues around immigration within his campaign, while never forgetting the Christian Democrats’ principles of manners and decorum.
Emile Roemer – Socialist Party
Socialist Party leader, Emile Roemer looked all set to become the new Dutch Prime Minister in 2012, only to see much of the left-wing vote eventually go to counterpart Diederik Samsom. Whether Roemer gains enough of the populist vote remains to be seen but he will hope his campaign for affordable healthcare and a reduced retirement age will earn his party more than the 15 seats it currently holds.
Alexander Pechtold – Democrats
Leader of the Democrats (D66) for more than a decade, Alexander Pechtold’s party has 12 seats as part of the current coalition government. The Democrats will hope to remain a part of the next Dutch government, with Pechtold having played an important role in Dutch local and national politics for many years.
There is no doubt that the Dutch General Election will be watched keenly in Brussels as a bellwether for populism across the continent.
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