Election in the netherlands: right-wing populists stopped

The election result forces Social Democrats and right-wing liberals into a coalition. The coalition is seen as pro-European.

Radiant winner: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Photo: dpa

Mark Rutte with his right-wing liberal VVD is the winner of the early elections in the Netherlands and the Social Democrats (PvdA) are on the rise again. Their new leading candidate Diederik Samsom made a spectacular gain.

As a result, the Netherlands once again has two major parties in The Hague parliament and voters have come out in favor of Europe. The populist and Europe-critic Geert Wilders suffered significant losses in this ballot. The election results were also disappointing for the Christian Democrats, who had governed with Rutte in a minority government, and GroenLinks.

Rutte’s right-wing liberal VVD won 41 seats, an increase of 10 mandates. His opponent Samsom, with whom Rutte had fought a fierce duel in the final phase of the election campaign, won 39 seats, which is an additional 9 seats for the Social Democrats compared with the result in 2010. Alexander Pechthold’s social-liberal D66 also won 2 seats and now has 12 deputies. The new 50 plus party made it into parliament with 2 deputies.

As in 2010, the election night remained very tense for a very long time with Rutte and Samsom in a neck-and-neck race. Around 2:30 a.m., a happy Rutte stepped in front of the microphone. In front of frenetically celebrating supporters, he announced the historic victory of the VVD.

Incredible performance

"Our party has never been as big as it is tonight," Rutte said, "and it has become the largest party in the Netherlands for the second time in history." Rutte saw the result as a vindication of his policies, and he congratulated Samson on his "incredible achievement." That’s because Samson managed in a short time to lead the Social Democrats out of a historic low in the opinion polls. Rutte stressed that he wanted to see as many VVD ideals as possible reflected in the upcoming coalition agreement.

Diederik Samsom addressed party comrades in Amsterdam. He expressed overwhelm. "Weeks ago, no one expected us to stand here like this," he said, with policies that don’t talk down to people, with optimism after the bad mood of the past few years. "Togetherness instead of self-interest" is what Dutch people voted for, he said. He wants to be part of the government. However, these election results must be translated into appropriate policies.

Geert Wilders, a critic of Europe and anti-Islam, lost 9 seats with his PVV. He will now be represented by 15 deputies in The Hague. The right-wing populists’ triumphant advance in elections has thus been halted, and Wilders suffered a stinging defeat.

Disappointed right-wing populists

The Christian Democrats continue to lose ground. With their new top candidate, Sybrand Buma, they lost 8 seats and landed on 13. The CDA had already suffered major losses in the last election. The close ties with the right-wing populists seem to have disappointed voters. GroenLinks has also been decimated. Jolande Sap, who took over the helm from Femke Halsema in 2011, lost 7 seats and comes in at 3. The Socialists, who are also critical of Europe, remained stable with Emile Roemer at 15 seats.

Wilders conceded that he had "lost badly. "Now Brussels can rejoice," he said. His anti-Europe campaign has not taken hold. Also, the failure of Rutte’s minority government to tolerate Wilders has disappointed voters.

The question is whether the major differences of Rutte and Samson can be reconciled in possible coalition negotiations. After all, a combination on the left or right is hardly possible with this election result. Voter turnout was around 74 percent, compared with 75 percent in 2010.

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