The Netherlands had an election on the 9th of June which was of particular interest to me as a former politics student, a Dutch citizen and also someone woefully under-informed (compared to my usual standards) as to the various parties, policies and the Dutch political landscape in general.

The Netherlands is a bicameral constitutional monarchy with a proportional representative electoral system compared to New Zealand’s unicameral constitutional monarchy with a mixed member proportional electoral system. The key difference is that parliamentarians in The Netherlands are voted in by their position on the list of their party.

There were two big issues dominating the campaigning, namely the economy (getting the deficit under control by reducing spending in welfare and potentially increasing the age of entitlement for superannuation to 67) and immigration. The strong showing by populist anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders and his party is reflective of the underlying unease and fear in many European countries over excessive immigration from Islamic countries such as Morocco and Turkey. Wilders and his PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid or Party for Freedom) have linked crime and security in many minds with excessive immigration and insufficient integration. He has also proposed a headscarf tax and banning the Koran. The PVV is now the third largest party with just over 15% of the vote. ‘More security, less criminality, less immigration and less Islam,’ is how Wilders summed it up on election night.

The results were very close with the VVD (centre-right) gaining 31 seats and the PvdA (centre-left) gaining 30 seats. There are 150 seats in parliament and an interesting dance will take place over the next few weeks (historically the shortest negotiation time 10 days, longest 208) as coalition is stitched together. Two main possibilities arise: a ‘purple-plus’ coalition made up of the VVD, PvdA, CDA (Christian Democrats), D66 (liberal democrats) and GroenLinks (Greens) or alternatively a right coalition made up of VVD, CDA and PVV. The biggest issue there is the stability of the PVV with the party dominated by Wilders but grumblings for increased democratisation from party members.

We shall see.

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