Held with three days of voting in the middle of a global pandemic, all expectations are that the Netherlands will put its trust in Mark Rutte again
By Thomas Ansell
On the 15, 16, and 17 of March the Dutch will dust off their awkwardly large polling cards and strangely thick red pencils to vote for their next government. As with nearly every Dutch government it is likely to be a coalition formed of two or more parties, and this negotiating can take significantly longer than the entire electoral process.
Technically, the Dutch government system works on a national list proportional representation system, and Dutch citizens will be voting for members of the House of Representatives. Such is the size of the Netherlands that national lists are used and if a party gains more than about 0.3 percent of the vote they are likely to get a seat in the house.
Notably for 2021 (aside from the whole global pandemic thing), the Dutch elections will have a mammoth 37 parties running. Whilst there are some parties that are essentially elaborate pieces of performance art (like The Party Party), there is a huge range of political outlooks available.
Who can vote?
Only Dutch citizens may vote in these elections, and anyone with Dutch citizenship should have received a list of all the parties and candidates running.
Who is running?
Though the full 37 party smorgasbord includes names like ‘Jesus Lives’, and the ‘Farmer-Citizen Movement’ there are only about 15 parties that are likely to make it into the House of Representatives.
The current PM Mark Rutte, despite having presided over an alarming benefits scandal with horrifying discriminatory overtones is riding high in the polls, with his VVD party likely to scoop nearly 40 seats in the 150-seat house. National shame and silver shampoo afficionado Geert Wilder’s PVV party of right-wing nativists is currently second in the polls.
A little further down the list of likely winners, the Christian Democratic appeal is likely to push the PVV for second place, whilst Sigrid Kaag’s liberal and friendly D66 party is currently polling in fourth.
Left-wing politics have taken a bit of a beating in recent years, with the PvdA (Labour) party leader Lodwijk Asscher standing down in the wake of the ‘toeslagenaffaire’ and his parties’ abysmal recent performances. GroenLinks, led by the reasonable but alarmingly similar to Justin Trudeau-looking Jesse Klaver are likely to finish fifth, with the Socialist Party looking at about fifteen percent of the vote, and Labour Party likely to scoop about ten percent of the vote.
There are a host of other parties that are likely to achieve slightly less representation in the House, such as the Partij voor de Dieren (Animal Rights Party), the Christian Union, 50PLUS (for the rights of older people); and the Christian right-wingers the SGP also likely to win a handful of seats.
Minor parties that are likely to only achieve about 3 percent of the vote include the minority-rights party DENK, the far left BIJ21 list, and Thierry Baudet’s FvD (a nationalistic, nativist, and generally disgusting far-right party).
What are the polls saying?
According to POLITICO’s poll of polls, Mark Rutte’s VVD could achieve nearly 40 seats, making it the largest grouping. Showing that the nativist right is still happily flourishing in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ PVV is currently polling about 20 seats. The liberal-ish CDA might push them for second place, thanks to the popularity of the current Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra. Sigrid Kaag, the current Foreign Minister, became head of D66 at the end of last year, and is polling well with the liberals likely to attain 14 seats, narrowly edging out the Labour Party (currently polling 13 seats) and GroenLinks (polling 12 seats).
Also make sure to look out for the liberal pro-Europe party VOLT, who may make it into the House for the first time.
When will we know the result?
Whilst counting votes in the Netherlands is a typically efficient process, and we are likely to know the number of seats for each party within a few days, Dutch governments are generally coalitions. This negotiating process can take quite a while: in 2017 Mark Rutte took nearly 300 days to cobble together his multi-party government. If the VVD win as big as they are predicted to this time around, the process will be far faster.
Who will be the next PM?
Barring a huge upset, Mark Rutte is more than likely to head up a new majority-VVD coalition. He may even be able to dispense with the smaller Christian Union party and rule in coalition with the CDA and D66.
Where can I find out more information?
Predictably, as it is only Dutch citizens that can vote in these elections, the party manifestos are majority in Dutch. However several parties have put their manifestos into ‘plain language’, and the NGO ProDemos has collated them here.