Recently I predicted a so-called “purple coalition” between Liberals and Labour – blue and red makes purple – in the Netherlands. After the elections on 9 June this is still possible. However, the big question at the moment is: will Geert Wilders, the leader of the populist rightwing Freedom party (yes, the one who the home office banned from entering the UK last year), become deputy prime minister in a liberal – rightwing coalition with the Christian Democrats? Will the Netherlands follow the example of Austria where rightwinger Joerg Haider got into power?
Wilders’ PVV increased its seats from nine to 24 in the 150-seat second chamber, behind the winning rightwing liberals of the VVD (31) and the Dutch Labour party (30), but pushing the ruling Christian Democrats into fourth position with 21 seats. (Full results here)
On election night Wilders declared “We want to be part of the new government. Nobody can bypass the PVV any more.” The Queen has now asked the rightwing liberals (VVD) to explore options to form a coalition with Wilders. Given the Dutch tradition of including all party leaders to advise the Queen on who should form the next government, it will be difficult for the VVD to ignore Wilders.
The election result left the parliament split between right and left, almost certainly requiring four parties to form a stable majority. The first option which is currently being explored is a rightwing coalition with VVD, Wilders, the defeated Christian Democrats and a small party of orthodox Christians – without them this coalition would only have a one-seat majority. But most Christian Democrats are not keen on joining a coalition with Wilders. The other option is a centrist government with VVD, Labour (under the leadership of Job Cohen, the former mayor of Amsterdam), Greens and leftist Liberals (D66). But standing in the way of this coalition are disagreements on spending cuts and welfare reforms.
The trouble with both coalition options is that neither would command a majority in the senate. A centrist coalition would command most seats, but would still need support from the socialist party to get a majority in the senate. And rightwing liberals and socialists working together seems highly unlikely – it would almost mirror a unity government in times of war!
Putting Wilders in the cabinet would mean a Dutch deputy prime minister who has linked Islam to Nazism. But excluding him from a coalition would leave Dutch politicians open to accusations of ignoring the outcome of the elections. In the Netherlands coalition talks take a bit longer than five days, so this story is to be continued…
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