Tomorrow there is a general election in The Netherlands. The Netherlands is a densely-packed and very wealthy nation of 17M along the North Sea in northwestern Europe, slightly larger than Maryland in size. It has a 150-member parliament, allocated by pure party-list proportional representation with no threshold. As you can imagine this leads to a huge number of parties – all 11 parties in the current parliament are considered likely to re-enter the new one. Dutch politics is something of a false choice in that the establishment parties capable of forming a government have little ideological variation (all are basically centrist to center-left upscale liberals), but there is a plethora of non-serious, extreme, and/or single-issue parties that will never lead a government. Polls close at 4pm Eastern Time and vote counting tends to be quick, so we’re running our preview a day in advance to give you time to discuss it.
The big story this election is the rise of the Party for Freedom (PVV), a right-wing populist party that takes a hard-line on immigration. The PVV is led by Geert Wilders, who is one of the few European politicians that would be considered hard-right even by American standards. Wilders takes one of the hardest lines on immigration of any first-world pol and is openly hostile to Muslim immigration in particular. Outside of its position on immigration and strong anti-EU stance, the remainder of the PVV platform is pretty much in line with the Tea Party or conservative base faction of the GOP, albeit more libertarian-friendly and less religious-influenced. As you can imagine, this combination has establishment figures in arguably the world’s strongest bastion of upscale left-liberalism headed for the fainting couch. The PVV has been subject to a cordon (a refusal by all other parties to form a government with them) for its entire existence, and that will inevitably continue. While the PVV has been polling in first for much of the campaign, its vote share has been eroding due to sustained attacks from the more mainstream parties. However, it seems likely to take enough votes to force the formation of an unweildy coalition of every mainstream party.
The election has basically come down to PVV vs. not-PVV, but the four major mainstream parties represent different flavors of European establishment politics. The largest party in the outgoing parliament is the People’s Party (VVD), a centrist pro-european business liberal party which would probably fit around the Bloomberg space on the American spectrum. They are in coalition with Labor (PVdA), a fairly standard European social-democratic party who would be similar to BernieBros in the US. PVdA has been hurt by its cohabitation with VVD in government, and looks likely to lose a large number of its seats to the far left. Currently a major opposition party is Democrats-66 (D66), a left-liberal party that would be very similar to the upscale limousine liberal wing of the US Democrats. D66 has been surging this year as the most vocally anti-PVV of the legacy parties. Finally, the Christian Democrats (CDA), who would be best described as a somewhat more upscale version of US Blue Dog Dems, were historically a very large party but have been slumping as of late. Given the absurd narrowness of the political spectrum (you could pretty much fit the entire mainstream Dutch political spectrum within a slightly expanded US Dem coalition) you can see how the PVV might be gaining traction.
It seems all but certain that the new government will need to include all four of these parties to exclude the PVV, but there are six other parties, some of whom may enter government if they or the PVV do enough to force the four mainstream parties below 50. The largest non-mainstream, non-PVV party is the Socialists (SP), a fairly typical neo-Communist party like Germany’s Linke. They have been in opposition since their founding but may need to enter government this time. They are joined on the far left by GreenLeft, a typical green party, and Party of the Animals, which is basically if PETA formed a party. There are also two religious parties, the Christian Union, a party that might best be described as following christian-left Pope-Francis-type principles, and the ultra-Orthodox-Calvinist Reformed Party, who are (to the best of my knowledge) the only flat-out theocratic party to sit in a first world parliament outside Israel. And if that wasn’t enough minor-party chaos, there’s also 50-Plus, which is what you’d get if AARP formed a centrist party.
Needless to say polls are projecting chaos. The PVV is taking a little over 20%, which won’t be enough to form a government (obviously) or even enough to force the mainstream parties to deal with them, but may make them the largest party (they are neck-and-neck with VVD on that front). The real question will be if VVD+D66+CDA+PVdA can get above 50, which some polls are suggesting is possible, or if they will need to include some of the mixed nuts to form a functioning government.