Dutch rejection of EU fails to materialise in elections
by Dean Carroll
An overwhelming victory for pro-European centrist parties in the Dutch elections is likely to mean Liberal Party leader and prime minister of the country Mark Rutte retaining his position in power. The Liberals are expected to form a left-right coalition with the Dutch Labour Party and its new leader Diederik Samsom after the two parties gained their highest vote share in a decade. Policy agreements on austerity and European bail-outs – the main campaign issues – could be crafted over the coming months with the pro-European centrist party Democrats 66 also potentially joining the coalition.
In yesterday's poll, Rutte's party grabbed 41 seats while Labour took 40 seats – out of the 150 possible in the chamber. It was a gain of 10 seats for each party on the 2010 election results. Both the Christian Democrats and the far-right Freedom Party saw their votes collapse. Meanwhile, the D66 party gained two extra seats taking its total to 12.
European leaders in Brussels will be relieved that Dutch voters rejected the more Eurosceptic fringe parties, but Rutte is still hostile to throwing extra money at Greece and other troubled eurozone countries. "We won our greatest victory in history and for the second time became the largest party in the Netherlands," Rutte said. "We fought this election house by house, street by street, city by city, and I'm proud. I will take the first steps leading to the formation of a Cabinet."
Defeated Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, who built his election campaign around anti-European Union rhetoric and demanded the country's exit from the EU, admitted that there would be a "celebration in Brussels tonight" after his party dropped from 24 to 15 seats. The Socialists, led by Emile Roemer, failed to gain a single seat and remained on 15. In addition, the Greens only retained three of their 10 seats and the Christian Democrats lost eight seats - leaving them with just 13.
Leader of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament Hannes Swoboda claimed the result was a "blow for nationalists" in the Netherlands. "The Dutch elections show that it is possible to win with a clear and pro-European programme," she added. "This is a good sign for social democracy in Europe."
Also suggesting that the vote was a wake-up call for Eurosceptics, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats group in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt said: "This is a slap in the face of populist, Eurosceptic politics. I very much welcome the broad Dutch support for the pro-European parties and the faded support for populism and nationalism, thus clearing the way for a renewed commitment from the Netherlands to tackle the euro crisis by taking the right decisions in Brussels. Rutte will have to show the way forward in Europe, out of the euro crisis. No country depends so much on good European cooperation for both its safety, its political weight in the world and its economic prosperity as the Netherlands."
Joining the debate, the president of the Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament Sergei Stanishev said of the result: "It is the definitive proof that Conservative policies, with their growth-killing austerity measures and their destructive lack of solidarity, have already reached their expiration date. Now the coalition talks must reflect this reality and ensure that the new government is built upon the foundations of progressive and social change."
Should voting be compulsory for young people?
First-time voters in the UK should be required to cast a ballot by law – and fined if they do not – in order to inculcate a lifetime habit of taking part in elections and boost overall turnout, writes Guy Lodge
The media convinced the Dutch people to vote strategically and even then the results of our election seems to be the world up-side down. Also, there is a debate going on here about going to a two-party system. This election, we had 20 parties to choose from, among them many new ones - born out of the wish to change the current, abusive system.
The media ignored the new parties (some news sites would even ban you for speaking of them), and with a lot of propaganda they pushed the sheep to vote strategically on the two largest ones according to their own polls.
Femke - Netherlands