Voters push to the centre

In Wednesday's Dutch general election, the Dutch press unanimously agrees, the victory of incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and of Diederik Samsom's Labour Party (PvdA) favoured the moderates and pro-Europeans to the detriment of the eurosceptic fringe such as Geert Wilders' populist Party for Freedom or Emile Roemer's far-left Socialist Party.

Published on 13 September 2012 at 13:22
Dutch incombente PM Mark Rutte (left) and Labour leader Diederik Samsom.

"The voters are forcing opposites to forge a coalition," Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad sums up the results of the September 12 ballot in which the VVD took 41 of the 150 seats in the lower house and the PvdA won 39. While it considers the victory by the two parties "historic" and agrees that they have a majority in the house, it is very probably that forming a government will have to include a third party that can cement the two together, the paper reasons —


Never before have the VVD's free market supporters and the market regulators of the PvdA been able to form a majority government without a third party. On the other hand, it remains to be seen if Rutte and Samsom will father a two-toned, blue-red coalition. In areas such as housing, labour and health care, they are light years apart [...] it is not unthinkable that they would ask one or two other centrist parties to participate in order to grease the wheels of the coalition.

Another daily Trouw sees the vote as clearly showing the Dutch preference for a government by the centre. The ballot —


... sheds light on the direction the nation must take. According to the electorate, the future is to be found in Europe and solutions to the crisis are to be found in the political centre. The PvdA and the VVD have the obligation to form a government that signals a change [...] The electorate is tired of polarisation, that is obvious.

But Martin Sommer, writing in daily De Volkskrant does not share this view. According to him, the Dutch engaged in a protest vote rather than a vote for the centre and, for the most part, gave their "strategic" opinion concerning the role of the prime minister —


Choosing the VVD or the PvdA is more likely the result of a negative view. One of Samsom's major motivations in the election was that Rutte could not become prime minister because of his alliance with Wilders [in the previous government]. On the other hand, aversion to Samsom, often seen as too high-strung and too far left, was one of the major reasons Ruffe accepted.

De Volkskrant also notes that, following the ruling of the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe regarding the European Stability Mechanism, the result of the elections provides a second item of "good news for the beleaguered euro" —


The feared revolt of Dutch voters against Europe did not take place. Contrary to Wilders' hopes, his attempt to turn the election into a referendum on Europe failed.

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