Morning papers reveal surprise and look ahead
The Dutch election results were greeted with surprise by several media, both in the Netherlands and abroad.
"A political earthquake" is what both Belgian newspaper De Morgen and the German Süddeutschen Zeitung labelled the results of Wednesday's election, which made Mark Rutte’s VVD the biggest party in parliament and depleted the ruling Christian democrats, CDA.
The German paper went on to declare populist Geert Wilders "the actual winner" of the election. Other German papers, including the tabloid Bild, also focused on the 24 seats Wilders will now control in the Dutch 150 seat parliament, and took note of Wilders’ unbridled ambition to join the next Dutch government. In the UK, Wilder's electoral victory also made headlines.
Dutch morning newspapers speculated on possible new ruling coalitions. All agreed that the formation process ahead would be unusually challenging. Editorials in Dutch dailies Trouw and de Volkskrant both argued for a coalition composed of right-wing liberal VVD (with 31 seats), runner-up Labour (30 seats), left-wing liberal D66 (10 seats) and green party GroenLinks (10 seats). The papers respectively called this coalition "obvious" and "the most logical". The razor-thin electoral margins left at least one newspaper editorial out of date by the time it went to print. De Volkskrant noted that a right-wing coalition of VVD, CDA and PVV would be impossible because it would not have sufficient seats. The latest results however, give this government a slim majority of a single seat.
Trouw, a confessional newspaper, voiced criticism of the Christian democratic leader and prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who stepped down as party leader following the disastrous results of for his CDA at the polls.
"The party's leadership has good reason to ask whether Balkenende was the most suitable leader after the fall of his fourth cabinet," the paper noted. Trouw also observed that the election results "demonstrate the secular character of the Netherlands" and that this "should give Christian parties pause for reflection".
Trouw joined de Volkskrant in calling a government that includes the PVV “unlikely”, a sentiment echoed by the US daily the Wall Street Journal.
De Telegraaf, the Netherlands largest paper, considered a VVD-PVV-CDA cabinet a real possibility. It noted that Rutte has called the GroenLinks, VVD, Labour, D66 alternative "highly unlikely" and went on to note that the right-wing cabinet could be VVD's "first option".