Welcome to the day after the elections! We’ve got a staggering 17 parties set for the Dutch parliament and I can imagine you, the international reader, is still wondering what just happened?
Well, with nearly 90% of the election results in, Mark Rutte is still winning while the left is still losing — all while there’s a pandemic playing out. And with 17 parties in parliament, it’s quite a pickle to figure out what a new coalition government will look like; one now needs a degree in both political science and math to wrap their heads around the current political situation and possible coalitions.
So let’s help you international readers make sense of this multi-party system and the Dutch election results of 2021.
1. Mark Rutte wins — again
A whole generation of young people is growing up having only known Mark Rutte as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. In the end; no botched handling of the corona-crisis or child-care allowance scandal was enough to deter people from voting for Rutte once again.
Other parties might say otherwise, but a big portion of the Dutch once again trust the upbeat, cycling-about Mark “Teflon” Rutte. In 2022, he will surpass Ruud Lubbers and become the longest-serving prime minister of the Netherlands.
Dutch prime minister expresses outrage when journalist comments he’s cycling an electric bike pic.twitter.com/GL6KDBcXyz
— anna holligan 🎙 (@annaholligan) March 17, 2021
And if you ask me, he might just go for four more years in the 2025 elections. He likes the job and the Dutch like him on the job.
2. The left loses hard
The Netherlands isn’t a balanced political country. The (center)-right is always a bit bigger than the left. But this time around the three leftists parties: PvdA (labour — keeping up with their UK counterpart), GreenLeft and SP (socialists) all had thoroughly disappointing results.
Together these left parties are only gaining about 25 seats, way less than the nearly 30 seats the far-right parties get.
How it started How it ended pic.twitter.com/f2d8P0mooX
— Jelte Sondij (@JelteSondij) March 17, 2021
Apparently, the average Dutch voter didn’t care that much about affordable housing and the welfare state. These three parties now need to reinvent themselves once more and figure out how how to appeal to a broader audience, perhaps a merger is a way to go?
If you’re confused by this outcome, it’s probably good to know that you’re most likely in a bubble with young internationally-minded Dutch people who vote for leftists parties. Unfortunately for the young city crowd, a large part of the Netherlands isn’t really into those ideas.
In case anyone was wondering how the Dutch Labour Party is doing, these are their seats won out of 150 in parliament https://t.co/hvcbgORsDg
— Pepijn Bergsen (@pbergsen) March 18, 2021
3. D66 and “potential” first female prime minister of the Netherlands Sigrid Kaag win big
Everybody expected Mark Rutte to win. But the polls were less clear about who would come in second. Would it be Wilders? Or perhaps the Christian Democratic CDA with the “presidential Hoekstra”? Or D66 with Sigrid Kaag, the slightly elitist but seasoned diplomat?
When the exit poll dropped:
— Ellen Bijsterbosch (@EllenBijster) March 17, 2021
It looks like D66 will emerge with 24 seats today, these are three less than the whopping 27 of yesterday’s exit poll. Nonetheless, it’s a great result for the progressive liberal D66 and the result of a brilliant campaign that positioned Sigrid Kaag as the “fresh female alternative” for Mark Rutte.
One way or the other she will have a big say in the new coalition and will be eyeing to beat Rutte in four years.
4. There’s a record number of parties entering parliament
Sure sex is great, but have you ever properly felt the thrill of handling a Dutch ballot?
— Buffi Duberman, English Coach 💕 (@buffiduberman) March 16, 2021
Such a ballot brings with it a big batch of new political parties for parliament. As it stands now, there will be an impressive 17 (!) parties present in the Dutch parliament, there hasn’t been that much present since 1918. So who are the new kids on the block?
There’s JA21 — rightwing populists who separated themselves from Thierry Baudet’s conspiracy-ridden Forum for Democracy after accusations of antisemitism and racism ran rampant there. They’re set for four seats.
Then there’s Volt. Despite the overlap with D66 they managed to get a buzz going with the young and internationally-minded crowd and now the pan-European party get three seats.
There’s Bij1 — standing to get one seat — with black activist frontwoman Sylvana Simons.
There’s the BBB which stands for the Farmer-Citizen-Movement and it looks like they’ll also get one seat.
5. We’ll have a new coalition — but likely not that much will change
So winners, losers and loads of newbies. What does this mean in the long-run for Dutch politics and eventually the Netherlands?
Well, a coalition needs to be formed — it will likely be one with at least the VVD, D66 and CDA. But at least one other party is needed in order to get a majority in the senate.
It’s also important to bear in mind that in the Netherlands the makeup of the senate is very different to that of parliament.
The government now needs to agree on four, perhaps five, parties who, in turn, will agree on what to do after the crisis ends. How will they tackle climate change, the growing inequality in society and the housing crisis?
The answer is likely not by following leftists social ideas, they didn’t get the confidence from the voters. At the same time, it will probably not be by following far right-wing populist ideas; Rutte and Kaag already excluded Wilders and Baudet from any possible coalition.
Right now on the radio a Leiden professor explaining how he outlined the composition of the Dutch parliament (15 parties) to a Korean audience. The only question he got was “How can we avoid this ever happening in our country?”.
— alexandre afonso (@alexandreafonso) March 18, 2021
The pressure is on this time since nobody will appreciate political games while the country endures a seemingly endless lockdown.
Looking into the future one can envision a coalition that isn’t wildly different from the coalition the Netherlands just had the past four years.
While perhaps the Netherlands is well off with a stable government run by happy-go-cycling Mark Rutte during the endgame of the pandemic, the general feeling in the country is that change is needed. Given the similarity between these election results and the last, whether that change will happen, is unlikely.
What do you think was the biggest takeaway from the Dutch election results of 2021? Are you happy with four more years for Mark Rutte?