Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Dutch say "no" to a grand coalition

The Netherlands held a general election today and the results are coming in. It appears that Dutch voters decided they definitely didn't want a "grand coalition"-style government, as both major parties, the Christian democrats (CDA) and Labor (PvdA) lost votes, netting under 50 percent combined (compared to over 56 percent at the last election).

The big winners of the day appear to have been Geert Wilders, whose new conservative party (founded in a break with the main liberal-conservative party over Turkey) took around 6 percent, and the Socialists, the leftist alternative to Labor. The Socialists appear to have won over 16 percent of the vote, an increase of over 10 percent. About half of this is Labor voters who appear to have shifted left to avoid a centrist coalition.

Another interesting note is the emergence of the Party of Animals, the first explicitly animal-rights party to gain representation in a parliament, anywhere. Meanwhile the classical-liberal D66 was demolished and took under 2 percent of the vote.

The Netherlands has a proportional-representation system that effectively works on the national level (the closest referent is Israel) and has no real threshold. This means that tiny parties can make parliament (there will be 10 in the Tweede Kamer this time around, looks like). In such a context it is really surprising that major parties are able to hold as much of the vote share as they do, and a shift to a more multipolar context (as is happening in Israel as well) seems inevitable. This is especially true today, where the number of issues confronting the electorate is larger and fits less well into a traditional left-right spectrum.

As for a government, chances look good that the current PM, heading the still-largest party CDA, will be returned to form Balkenende IV. CDA with the VVD (conservative liberals) and Wilders' new party appear to come close to a majority. The alternatives seem to have been rejected by the electorate.

The Dutch electoral authority does not seem to post results online. I am seeing the best results from a Dutch newspaper, here. Also, the BBC gives a summary. Wikipedia has an extensive article, with the usual caveats.

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