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Tuesday 30 September  
Election winner: Mark Rutte
John Tyler's picture
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The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

Liberal VVD Party wins historic Dutch election

Published on : 9 June 2010 - 10:01pm | By John Tyler (Photo: ANP)
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The free-market liberal VVD party has won a narrow victory in Dutch parliamentary elections.

It is the first time the liberals have ever become the largest party. And it has been one hundred years since the Netherlands has had a liberal prime minister. But the VVD victory is also the narrowest in modern Dutch history, and with 31 seats in parliament, the VVD becomes the smallest party to win an election.

Leader Mark Rutte, likely to become the next prime minister, addressed his supporters in the early hours of Thursday morning.

"People, what a special evening. And exciting. It looks as though for the first time in our history the VVD is the largest party in the Netherlands."

Labour second

The Labour Party (PvdA) came in a close second, with 30 seats. Nonetheless, Labour leader Job Cohen was pleased with the result. After all, his party brought about the fall of the previous cabinet, and as a brand new party leader, Mr Cohen had been struggling during the election campaign. But the party managed to limit the damage.

"Lots of people thought, that's it for the Labour Party, the Labour Party is written off….well, Here we are!"

Wilders

Outside of the big two - the biggest winner of the day is far-right populist Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV). The party will more than double its number of seats in parliament, getting 24 seats. It now has nine. Of all the parties, it saw the biggest percentage gains.

Speaking to raucous supporters when the first results were announced, Mr Wilders said, "The impossible has come true." He called this a glorious day for the entire country, and said about one-and-a-half million people chose the Freedom Party's "optimistic" platform. The Freedom Party becomes the third-largest party in the Dutch parliament.

The question remains whether or not the Freedom Party will be able to join a coalition government. Mr Wilders feels his party should be considered in any new coalition formation. "I hope that we can govern. They can't get around us or push us aside," he said.

But it's unclear whether the VVD's Mark Rutte agrees. He has said he does not rule out any party. But cooperation between the VVD and the Freedom Party would prove difficult.

Plus, it is not uncommon for a party that does well to be excluded from coalition talks. In the last election, the Socialist Party almost tripled in size, ending up with 25 seats, in parliament and did not join the governing coalition.

Coalition puzzle

Forming any coalition is going to prove difficult. A right-wing coalition including the VVD, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Party commands only a slim majority. Another three-party option is a so-called "government of national unity". The VVD, the Labour Party and the Christian Democrats, together have 82 seats, a solid majority. But it would be politically difficult.

Party factions will meet on Thursday to discuss their options. Mr Wilders, combative as ever, set the tone for his Freedom Party meeting.

"And I say to all the newly elected Freedom Party MPs of our beautiful party, bring battering rams with you, because starting tomorrow, we're going to give them hell!"

End of an era

The biggest loser of the night was Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. In an emotional moment, he announced he was stepping down as leader of the Christian Democrat party. The party has suffered an historic defeat, losing nearly half its seats.

Mr Balkenende called the results "very, very disappointing".

This brings the Balkenende era of Dutch politics, which began when he became prime minister in 2002, to an end.

Mr Balkenende will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new government is sworn in.

Wednesday's election marks a turning point in Dutch politics.

About five percent of the vote remains to be counted, including thousands of absentee ballots sent in by Dutch people living abroad. But the VVD is 47,000 votes ahead of Labour, a margin most analysts think will be impossible to overcome.

Turnout was the lowest in years as heavy rain showers kept some voters at home. Seventy-four percent of eligible voters cast a ballot.

Elections

150 is the number of seats in the Dutch Parliament

The parties represented in this graphic with the number of seats between brackets are:

PvdA (Dutch Labour Party)
PVV (Geert Wilders' Freedom Party)
VVD (centre-right liberals)
CDA (Christian Democrats)
SGP (Protestant party)
GroenLinks (GreenLeft)
SP (Socialist Party)
Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals)
D66 (Democrats 66)
ChristenUnie (Christian Union)
Trots op Nederland (Proud of the Netherlands)

John Tyler on Dutch election

Discussion

Stanley Nicholls 10 June 2010 - 11:36pm / United Kingdom

The "No Smoking Ban" here in England has been an unqualified success. Negative comments about it here are now not particularly significant. Dining out is very popular, and it is now a great pleasure to be able to eat ones food in a pub or restaurant, without having to ingest foul smoke. To-day we heard on the television and radio that there were 1200 fewer deaths from smoking-related illnesses and diseases since the ban was introduced last year!! Hooray!! If only smokers could have seen my father breathing his last at the end of an oxygen tube in hospital, completely unable to communicate other than with his frightened, staring, eyes, it would have scared them off smoking. I am the only survivor of 5 brothers. I have never smoked, and am sad beyond measure that they all smoked and died between the ages of 40 and 66, 3 from lung cancer and 1 from a heart attack.

Vellocatus 12 June 2010 - 10:20am / UK

Sorry Stan, but in reality the smoking ban in UK is an UNQUALIFIED DISASTER and has failed. You may like dining out, but your choice of venue has been substantially reduced to the tune of around 6000 places, not to mention the fact that tens of thousands of hospitality workers have lost their jobs. YOUR 'great pleasure' is a selfishness that comes at the cost of the social isolation of OTHERS and brings with it a culture of intolerance and bigotry to the detriment of wider society.

The figure you quote of smoke related illnesses is something, someone, somewhere, made up, based on spurious figures and questionable correlations. NO ONE has ever been proved to have died from smoking using hard, positive science! There are far more cases of so called 'smoke related' diseases NOW than at at any time in the past DESPITE a massive reduction in the amount of smokers/smoking. Anyone with a functioning, rational brain can work out the implications of this!

You immediately assume that your family died as a result of smoking because you have been conditioned to believe that. By blaming smoking and THEIR personal choices for THEIR demise you let off the hook the corporations and industries that pollute our environment and boost the profits of others.

How do you account for the increasing death toll of NON_SMOKERS in illnesses alleged to be caused by smoking? Have you ever considered that if the £billions wasted on 'tobacco control' was to have been used to find real causes and cures, your family may have lived longer?

Smoking bans are not about health!

Michael J. McFadden 10 June 2010 - 9:28pm / USA

The article doesn't seem to mention it, but the biggest winners in the election (The VVD) were the strongest opponents of the heavy-handed big-government smoking ban forced on pubs by the biggest losers in the election (the CDA). It looks like the plain, ordinary, happy Dutch person has stood up and said "We want to choose how to live our OWN lives without the government telling us every little thing to do!"

Yay for the Dutch!

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Eddie Douthwaite 10 June 2010 - 9:13pm / Scotland

The Dutch people now have the opportunity to get rid of the Smoking Ban which has been an economic disaster to small businesses. Global Tobacco Control is corrupt and is being exposed day by day.

David Berridge 10 June 2010 - 8:42pm / Canada

A Grand Coalition of the VVD, Christian Democrats, and Labour, based on the Polder Model, is the best way to form a government. Such an arrangement would provide a place in the governance of the Netherlands for nearly three fifths of the electorate, and the 21 seats of the Christian Democrats would provide the VVD ample support. Labour under the leadership of Job Cohen is a stable political force with a strong councilatory asset, making such a coalition less difficult to manage than would first appear on paper. The Netherlands now must present a viable place within the EU with the external problems surrounding Europe, as a Middle Power whose stability can be a positive constructive voice, now that the vaunted Franco-German axis in Europe is under a great deal of pressure. The one glaring result from the election is the place of the PVV, whose gains and position in the vote are disturbing in terms of the numbers of electors who so easily allow themselves to be hoodwinked by Wilders' narrow self-serving interpretation and prctice of democracy. This is a sad statement on the situation domestically within Dutch society.

jasmin 10 June 2010 - 6:20pm / India

What a coloured pie of election results...hope the coalition works this time, though the Dutch should have been wiser this time to bring home a majority that rules wisely and not a group of parties who keep bickering over every issue. Hope the the new PM takes care of the finances wisely and there are no job cuts...Best wishes Holland

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