Dutch election results demand unorthodox and post-haste solutions
An unorthodox solution is required to solve the electoral puzzle voters left politicians with after Wednesday's election.
Never since the introduction of universal suffrage in the Netherlands, was the country's biggest political party as small as the right-wing liberal VVD is now. This illustrates the political fragmentation that is the result of Wednesday's election.
The results confirm a trend that emerged in the municipal elections held earlier this year. As a consequence, forming a cabinet that can count on majority support in parliament will become exceedingly complicated.
The VVD has become the biggest party by the narrowest of margins, Geert Wilders' PVV has obtained a gargantuan victory and the Christian democratic CDA suffered the biggest defeat in its history. Labour, despite appearing rather pleased with its 30 seats, booked its second worst result ever. Left-wing liberal D66 and green party GroenLinks both won large victories, but remain relatively small parties. Together, they will occupy as many seats in parliament as the Socialist Party lost during this election: ten.
As the biggest party, the VVD should take the initiative in the formation of a new coalition, and it seems only logical that it will first try to establish a right-wing government, together with PVV and CDA. Such a cabinet is not without drawbacks. The liberal VVD should ask itself if it wants to govern with a party considered 'extreme right' abroad, a party that also wants to enact policies at odds with the constitution. It is telling that the employers' organisations, traditional supporters of the VVD, have voiced objections to a cabinet that includes the PVV. On the other hand, it is astounding how quickly the PVV has proven willing to compromise. Speaking only a day after the election, Geert Wilders said his party would consider joining a government that would raise the age of eligibility for state pensions, something he had categorically ruled out during the campaign.
Meanwhile a question remains as to whether the CDA will be willing to join any governing coalition after being so severely beaten at the polls. It would be the first time ever that the party would take part in a coalition in which it was not the biggest party.
The same doubts can be raised when it comes to a ’big coalition’ consisting of VVD, Labour and CDA. It seems only logical that CDA would prefer to lick its wounds in the opposition.
This leaves the option of a coalition of VVD, Labour, D66 and GroenLinks. This is hardly a logical choice. VVD and Labour, in particular, are ideologically opposed, as their leaders have been at pains to emphasise during the election campaign.
What is certain is that the results of this election call for unorthodox solutions, and the economic crisis demands that a new government be formed post-haste.
Whatever governing coalition assumes control, it will need to take some painful measures, and it will need to take them quickly. This requires a coalition that agrees to a general framework for government and has the courage to obtain ad-hoc parliamentary majorities for its reforms as it goes along.
Parties joining such a coalition will have to build up trust, first and foremost, in each other.