The fifth Dutch election in ten years turned into a political thriller last week. After a very close finish, the Netherlands finally landed on a coalition of moderate parties to save it from the economic crisis.
European integration and economic policy were predicted to be the most important issues in the Dutch election. But many voters remained undecided until the last minute.
“The outcome is surprising, because the Dutch have swung from one party to the other during the campaign. It was still open only hours before the election, as many people were hesitating to make a decision”, tells political scientist at the University of Amsterdam, Philip van Praag.
Still believe in Rutte
In the end, the scale tipped in favour of current Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his liberal party (VVD) with 26,5 per cent of the votes, followed by the labour party (PvdA) with 24,7 per cent
“We still have faith in Rutte” said Tony De Zwart from Diemen, a small town just outside Amsterdam.
With a little help from his daughter Anna, he put the 1000th vote in the ballot at the polling station in Diemen town hall Wednesday evening.
He was never in doubt that he would support the VVD for another period. Prime Minister Rutte was forced to hand in his resignation in April, but it seems the Dutch voters still trust him.
“We have to see it from a wider perspective. I think Rutte did a good job the last time, and the VVD can help the economic situation if they are enabled to conduct their policies”, De Zwart explained.
It seems the majority of the Dutch voters agreed with De Zwart. After a long period of political instability, with five elections in only ten years, the Dutch settled for the ‘middle road’ this time.
“This is an important change to the centre for Dutch politics”, says political scientist Philip van Praag.
He thinks the economic situation in the Netherlands and issues like health care and housing made the voters decide on the moderate parties.
Both left and right wing parties lost many seats in the Parliament. For example, Geert Wilders and his anti Muslim and anti EU Freedom Party (PVV) suffered a major defeat compared to their success two years ago.
But the close result also creates new challenges.
“The two biggest parties have no choice but to form a coalition”, thinks Van Praag.
Sharing the power between the VVD and the PvdA, and possibly a few smaller parties, makes it difficult to predict the future of Dutch politics:
“It is in their interest to form a lasting coalition. But the new government will probably be a rather unstable one, with a lot of internal tensions between the two larger parties”, says van Praag.