Elections in the Netherlands: A Quick Guide

Next month the Dutch vote a new parliament into office. In the fragmented politics of the Netherlands this marks the start of a period of heated coalition talks to form a government. Typically it takes an average of three parties to form a majority. With the election of Donald Trump and Brexit fresh in mind, the Dutch fear a similar paradigm shift with far right populist Geert Wilders soaring in the polls. But who else will try to land their butts on the blue seats of the 150 seat parliament? A short guide.

The Establishment
These parties have traditionally always been the biggest and have been in coalitions the most in post-war Netherlands. Are they going to come out winners again?

VVD (Liberal Democrats)
Currently the biggest player in town and home of PM Mark Rutte. Pretty straight forward liberal right, free market party. Low taxes, austerity and beneficial to small businesses and rich people. In an effort to gain votes from the populist right they sometimes lash out with nationalist trash talk.

PvdA (Labour)
Perhaps in a bygone era they represented the working class. Currently they are the go-to place for moderate liberals, leftist elite and burned-out babyboomers that were hippies in their prime but now believe they have to be pragmatic and realistic about things.

CDA (Christian Democrats)
Moderately conservative and high on family values and denunciation of naughty things like marihuana and prostitution. When push comes to shove however, they are mostly concerned with economic conservatism and austerity. Back in the 2003 they were vocal supporters of the Bush administration and the Iraq war.

D66 (Democrats)
Considered wild mavericks in the 1960s but now mostly a safe centrist choice. Favoured by pseudo-intellectuals and hipsters. D66 traditionally wants to invest in education and direct-democracy, favoured by other parties as pliable coalition partner.

The Challengers
Here follow the parties that are small-ish now, but are serious contestants to become major players.

PVV (Far Right)
Their name ironically translates to “Party for Freedom” – but that’s a rouse. The PVV and their notorious leader Geert Wilders want to leave the EU, close the borders for immigrants, shut down every mosque and refugee center in the country and ban the Quran. They are currently leading in the polls but no other party expresses interest in working with them, which may lead to an electoral crisis.

SP (Socialists)
The SP was known in the 1990s as the radical left. They have their roots in union syndicates and Maoist groups and long campaigned for free public transport, education and health care. With the years they shifted more to the middle in an effort to become ‘reliable’ as coalition partner. Their program is surprisingly nationalist and proposes a stop to cheap work force from Eastern Europe.

GroenLinks (Green Party)
Long accused of being idealist hippies, the Green Party is becoming more of a liberal alternative for people that care about the environment and social welfare but are put off by radical socialism. Their leader Jesse Klaver established some popularity as handsome youngster with ambitions. GroenLinks is serious about green energy, social welfare and anti-austerity but also very pro-Europe and liberal towards entrepreneurship and international trade.

The Outsiders
Every four years we have a few that are not expected to ever get more than five or six seats at the max, but nevertheless can be important when it comes to forming coalitions.

Christen Unie (Christian Union)
The CU is a bit of an odd one out, combining traditional Christian values with a surprisingly progressive agenda. The party is against abortion and euthanasia and their program remains suspiciously silent on LGBTQ issues. On the other hand, they want to invest in green energy, public servicies and a social welfare system and are for religious freedom for everyone.

SGP (Reformed Protestants)
The other side of the Christian pendulum. The SGP is the most radically conservative party in the country. Against separation of church and state, the SGP advocates against abortion, Islam and feminism and in favour of Israel, the death penalty and mandatory Sunday rest.

Partij voor de Dieren (Party for Animals)
Radical animal welfare group. Wasn’t taken seriously at first, as silly one-issue party. But since then they gained some momentum as hardliner on the environment, advocate for direct democracy and other progressive issues.

50 Plus
A group of babyboomers that feel left out in the modern political debate. Most of their program revolves around tax and pension benefits in favour of people in their age group and investments in health care, public transport and housing.

Fringe Parties
These have not been voted into parliament before yet, but have had their share of media attention and might just snack a seat or two. Who knows?

VNL (For the Netherlands)
A group of break-away members from the PVV. Mostly concerned with the same far-right hogwash as Wilders but more focused on free market economy, low taxes and democracy.

FVD (Forum for Democracy)
Brainchild of right wing jester Thierry Baudet. Focuses a lot on electoral reforms and populist measures bordering on fascism. Wants a directly elected prime minister, closed borders, promotion of Dutch culture and a referendum on EU membership.

DENK (THINK)
Established by Labour party members in exile. Focuses on anti-racism, anti-colonialism and better treatment of immigrant minorities and refugees. Criticized for being apologists of radical Islam.

Artikel 1
The name refers to the first article of the Dutch constitution which forbids discrimination based on race, religion or orientation. Recently established by a break-away member of above mentioned DENK. Artikel 1 has roughly the same type of policies, but as of today (14th February) has not a published a program yet.

Piraten Partij (Pirate Party)
Dutch branch of the global movement started in Sweden. The Pirate Party advocates net neutrality, privacy protection and self determination through digital currency and limitation of both government and corporate involvement in online freedom and copyright protection.

GeenPeil (NoPoll)
After gaining worldwide fame in the spring of 2016 by forcing the government to hold a referendum over the EU deal with Ukraine, the public initiative GeenPeil tries to break into politics with a bizarre concept. The proposed MPs are suppose to vote in parliament for whatever their audience votes for on their website. They don’t have a program of their own.

 

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