Dutch elections: What to watch out for

Elections for the Netherlands Second Chamber, 15 March

3rd March 2017

The Second Chamber (“Tweede Kamer”) of the Dutch Parliament (Estates General) elects the Government of the day. It sits normally for a five year period. The next general election is due on 15 March 2017.

The electoral system is proportional representation – voters vote for a party list and one of 80 candidates in their electoral district (there are 20 such districts in the Netherlands).

The party system is relatively fractured, with 2 Liberal Parties (the larger VVD and smaller D66), a Labour Party (PVdA) and Socialist Party (SP), one Christian Democrat Party (CDA), Green Left and smaller parties.

The main change in recent years has been the rise of the PVV (Freedom Party) led by Geert Wilders, a right wing populist party which has developed a strong appeal to disenchanted voters over issues such as immigration and crime.

The 2012 election led to a relatively stable Government between the VVD and the main Labour Party grouping PvDA led by Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher which has helped Rutte and his colleagues play key roles in stabilising the Eurozone and wider EU business. But the key characteristic of the current campaign is the collapse in votes for the Labour Party. The latest opinion polling (see table) shows that the Labour party vote is collapsing and may deliver as few as 12-15 seats out of a total of 150 in the Parliament – the PvDA has nearly 40 just now.

Votes for the centre right parties – VVD, D66 and CDA, are holding up, with VVD slightly ahead of a rejuvenated PVV although Wilders is still hoping he might outpoll the VVD.

At this stage it looks as if Rutte will be seeking coalition partners from the right wing parties and will try all he can, given the experience in 2010-12, to avoid being in any way dependent on the votes of the PVV.

The Dutch authorities have in the past counted votes electronically after the polls close at 2100, but this time they have announced that they will count votes by hand in order to avoid any problems of computer hacking, for example from Russian sources. So it may be the next morning before the results are clear. Whatever, we expect a complicated process of coalition building depending on the result of the elections.

Opinion Polling 23 February - 2nd March 2017.

Source Politieke Barometer Actuele Peiling