Dutch Election Preview & Open Thread

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.

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  • jncca March 14, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    I appreciate all the work you did, but I disagree with you about the big story being the “rise of the PVV.”

    The PVV is currently polling no better than it did in 2010 (although better than in 2012, the most recent election). Rather, the story is the splintering of the mainstream, making the PVV’s position (15% of the Dutch voters support the PVV, no better than UKIP in the UK and far worse than the National Front polls in France) appear stronger than it is.

    24, CA-6. Part Obama, Part May, Part Christian Democrat.

  • jncca March 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    I looked into Dutch political geography and thought you might find it interesting.

    The VVD of PM Rutte performs best near (but not in) Amsterdam, in an area that includes suburbs and areas that are further out than suburbs, although I’d imagine some people still commute given the good Dutch trains and the density of the country. This is similar to the Tories’ strength near but not in London, although the Tories also have more strength in rural areas.

    Labour’s base is in the far north and northeast of the country (near Groningen, Leeuwarden, and Emmen). This left-wing belt extends into Germany too, as the part of Lower Saxony near these areas is an SPD base area. Labour also does well in the two largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

    The PVV’s base is in the far southeast of the country (Limburg). They also do well in the suburbs/slumburbs of Rotterdam. They are weak in most cities, as well as in the Antilles (who also get a vote in this election, like the French Caribbean departments).

    Democrats 66 unsurprisingly do well in the non-Rotterdam cities (Rotterdam is majority-minority and almost uniformly blue-collar). They also do well in the Antilles for some reason. They perform worst in Zealand in the southwest.

    Christian Democratic Appeal does well in rural areas and worst in the VVD’s base in and around Amsterdam.

    The Socialists have a concentrated base area in the south (near Nijmegen) and in the northeast. They do worst near Utrecht and in the Antilles.

    GreenLeft does well in cities, especially in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen, and Nijmegen. They clearly have stronger support from young people than older people.

    The Reformed Party does well in the Dutch “bible belt” which stretches diagonally across the country in a similar path to that of New Jersey’s Democratic base.

    24, CA-6. Part Obama, Part May, Part Christian Democrat.

  • jncca March 14, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    And finally, in case you wanted even more numbers…

    Christian Democrats: 52% in 1946, 50% in 1956, 45% in 1967, 32% in 1977, 35% in 1989, 29% in 2002, polling at 14% for 2017.
    Labor: 28% in 1946, 33% in 1956, 24% in 1967, 34% in 1977, 32% in 1989, 27% in 2003, polling at 6% for 2017.

    Meanwhile, the GreenLeft is poised for their best election ever, and Democrats 66 their second best ever (the 16% they earned in 1994, another year the “big two” collapsed, seems out of reach).

    24, CA-6. Part Obama, Part May, Part Christian Democrat.

  • Jon Henrik Gilhuus March 14, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    It looks like the VVD is going to be the largest party and PM Rutte looks to have gained the most from the last days’ debacle over Turkey.

    The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.
    - P.J. O'Rourke

    • Ryan_in_SEPA March 14, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      Would you call it a debacle?

      31, PA-6, fiscally conservative communitarian, Giant Meteor 2020 - Just End It Already!

      • GerGOP March 15, 2017 at 3:39 am

        For him? No. It was Easter and Christmas together.
        For the rest of the spineless leaders in Europe? Hell yes.

  • Jon Henrik Gilhuus March 14, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Indeed, Wilders seems to implode on the verge of the election, down to third place in one poll and fifth place in another: https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-14/wilders-party-slumps-in-shock-dutch-poll-on-eve-of-election

    The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.
    - P.J. O'Rourke

  • NYC_DINO March 14, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    This is a few weeks old now but was very good. https://www.ft.com/content/c44350c6-f85f-11e6-bd4e-68d53499ed71

  • GerGOP March 15, 2017 at 3:37 am

    Agree with Jncca and Gilhuus: Wilder’s party will crash hard today and Ruttgers should be a contestant for the luckiest guy of the year award thanks to the Turkey situation. It surely helped him quite a bit.

    After today, you’re gonna read tons of stories how Trump’s victory awoken the slumbering forces of the social democrat parties, how the populist movement (why the heck are only right party considered to be populist xD) is dying, yadda, yadda.

  • GerGOP March 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Expected turnout of 80%. 1 hour more to go.

    • Upstater22 March 15, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      Confused by this since the post says polls close at 3pm eastern time — then realized that we have already done daylight savings and europe has not. Polls close at 4pm eastern daylight time. Sounds like exit polls should be available right after polls close.

      Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

  • GOPTarHeel March 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Exit poll: VVD 31, PvdA 9, PVV 19, SP 14, CDA 19, D66 19, CU 6, GL 16, SGP 3, PvdD 5, 50+ 4 seats

    Strong performance by the incumbent center-right party .

    R/NC. Waiting for a non-ossified establishment or sane populists. Not optimistic.

    • Upstater22 March 15, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      If this holds, the “left” in general did poorly (PvdA, SP, GL, PvdD). VVD + CDA + D66 = 69 seats. Add CU or PvdA for a majority. Still, 4 parties in government is a lot.

      Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

  • Upstater22 March 15, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Turnout 81%. 74.6% in 2012.

    Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

  • GerGOP March 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm


    • jncca March 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Well, why isn’t it true? This certainly bolsters the case that Le Pen won’t outperform the polls, if true.

      24, CA-6. Part Obama, Part May, Part Christian Democrat.

      • Upstater22 March 15, 2017 at 5:06 pm

        France is not the Netherlands. There is a lot of analysis out there showing that the Netherlands may be unique is showing a reverse “shy Tory” effect — peoplewho will say that they will vote PVV to pull the other parties to the right on immigration, but wont vote for him in the end because they dont like him. Wilders also has some unique personal issues that turn voters off from voting PVV who might otherwise pull the lever. His 2012 betrayl of VVD has turned many sympathetic voters off.

        Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

      • Upstater22 March 15, 2017 at 5:16 pm

        The story could just as well be that the center-left and left wing parties (SP, GL, PvdA, PvdD) were decimated, going from 59 seats in 2012 to 44 seats in 2017.

        Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

        • GOPTarHeel March 15, 2017 at 5:30 pm

          Yeah that’s the real story here. The center left collapsed and the Green Left seems to have underperformed.

          R/NC. Waiting for a non-ossified establishment or sane populists. Not optimistic.

        • jncca March 15, 2017 at 5:36 pm

          That’s a good story too. It doesn’t mean the other one is wrong. There can be two stories in an election. Like how 2016 was about a White working-class revolt AND a professional class shift to the Dems.

          24, CA-6. Part Obama, Part May, Part Christian Democrat.

      • Greyhound March 15, 2017 at 6:32 pm

        I think a more accurate one is that the populist right can be successfully co-opted. Rutte figured out how to stop sounding like a complete pushover to the Muslim world in the last few days of the campaign, and that clearly got a lot of otherwise PVV voters willing to give him another shot.

        R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

        • Ryan_in_SEPA March 15, 2017 at 6:44 pm

          Yep being tough on Turkey probably got him a few seats.

          31, PA-6, fiscally conservative communitarian, Giant Meteor 2020 - Just End It Already!

      • GerGOP March 16, 2017 at 2:22 am

        And it’s not like Rutte won because he painted a rosy picture of “socialism”. The spat with Turkey is what got him this far ahead and nationalistic tunes got him closer over the course of the last few weeks. He’s more Le Pen than not.

        • Greyhound March 16, 2017 at 3:02 am

          I honestly think its mostly an act (though Ergodan being completely ridiculous certainly helped). But honestly, feigned sincerity is still a step up from their previous tactic of mockery and derision. That’s kind of what I think the “Establishment”, especially in Europe, needs to do to stop people like Wilders and Le Pen. Those people are getting support mostly because huge swaths of Europeans don’t believe their leaders are taking their concerns seriously, and those types are.

          To put it in pithy terms, Immigration as a political issue in Europe has mostly devolved into a battle between morons and bastards. And the only time people vote for bastards is when the alternative is morons.

          R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

          • VastBlightKingConspiracy March 16, 2017 at 3:07 am

            I mean for us, Trump managed to surge all across the Rust Belt without really dramatically overhauling that much of the GOP platform on economic issues, decrepit parts included. But the dominant media narrative was that Trump was taking the concerns of these people seriously (which was supposedly a bad thing because they are privileged and deplorable and you need to celebrate their deaths unless you’re a racist!) Seems like a similar phenomenon undergirding the success of the Dutch right.

            I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Republican.

  • Upstater22 March 15, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Based on 10 percent of the votes counted, here’s a new list of seat allocation. It only includes cities and towns that finished counting early, so they might still be far off the final results.

    According to this the VVD is still the biggest party, followed by the Christian-Democrats, and the PVV and D66 on third place.

    VVD 33
    PVDA 9
    PVV 18
    SP 13
    CDA 25
    D66 18
    CU 6
    GL 13
    SGP 3
    PvdD 5
    50+ 4
    FvD 2
    DENK 1

    Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

    • jncca March 15, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      The PVV won Rotterdam, D66 won Groningen, and the GreenLeft won Amsterdam…all these outcomes are crazy given the normal Labour dominance in all three cities.

      24, CA-6. Part Obama, Part May, Part Christian Democrat.

      • Upstater22 March 15, 2017 at 7:34 pm

        Amsterdam done counting, Labor down 27.4 points.
        The northern part of the country is going from Labor red to D66/CDA green.

        Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

      • GerGOP March 16, 2017 at 2:21 am

        How PVV won Rotterdam is beyond me. I’ve spent two weeks in the city in 2015 and will go there for a couple of days in april. The city’s population has more than 50% citizens with immigration background.

  • GOPTarHeel March 15, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    50+ really collapsed, only expected to get 4 seats. A new Euroskeptic party entered parliament, as did the migrant rights party. The Christian Democrats and the two smaller Christian parties held up well.

    R/NC. Waiting for a non-ossified establishment or sane populists. Not optimistic.

  • w920us March 15, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Hard to tell if this is serious or not.

    Turkey deports Dutch cows

    R, South Philly, 47, Gay, WFU Alum
    #TrumpVoter #NeverHillary

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