General elections are under way in the Netherlands for the selection of all 150 members of the House of Representatives, which is the secondary house of the country’s bicameral legislature, the other one being the Senate. The seats in the House of Representatives, which is located in The Hague, are filled through elections using a party-list proportional representation and the candidate lists are placed in the hands of the voters at least 14 days before the election(1). In the run up to the 2017 general elections, various organisations carried out opinion polling to test voting intention in the country. According to recent statistics, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) led by the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Party for Freedom (PVV) founded by Geert Wilders are leading the polls.
People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) has historically been identified as the Netherlands’ largest liberal party. In reality, however, the VVD seems to combine both conservative and liberal political ideas. The party appears to take a conservative stance on law and order, immigration and integration issues, while at the same time supporting private enterprise and being an economically liberal party. VVD’s leader, Mark Rutte, has been the country’s Prime Minister since 2010 and appears to be praised for leading the country to economic stability. Facing questions regarding his immigration policy, Rutte penned an open letter trying to inspire everyone living in the Netherlands to respect the Dutch customs, values and to work together for the prosperity of the country ”Let’s work together to make this country even better. Because we really are a cool country.” He also encouraged foreigners living in the Netherlands to adapt to the Dutch way of life, as an effective way of integration. In regards to EU matters, during a speech at the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Rutte emphasised the importance of European resilience and unity at a time when there seem to be significant changes facing the world at large. Rutte expressed his belief the EU may better serve its people by refraining from further integration, while also highlighting the need for all EU countries to follow the same rules. He advocated for active action on strengthening the EU economy in order to provide stability and a pleasant and normal life for Europeans. In regards to migration, the solution he offered was helping those in need settle in their home countries or their regions by providing food, shelter and education, rather than encouraging them to cross the sea or walk long distances to come to Europe; he also praised the agreement the EU has signed with Turkey to manage the migrant flow.
Meanwhile, Geert Wilders, the founder and leader of PVV seems to display a mix of positions independent of the European political spectrum and particular to iconoclastic Dutch society and appears to share specific opinions on Islam, and immigration. As part of its election platform, the PVV called for a reduction of taxes and state regulations, the restoration of educational standards, with an emphasis on the educational value of the family, respect and better rewards for teachers, policemen, health care workers and military personnel, an enhanced policy on recreational drug use, investing more in roads and other infrastructure, a more accessible and humane health care system, especially for elderly citizens, and scaling down the influence of the European Union. On foreign relations, Wilders has largely supported Israel and make some proposals in the Dutch Parliament inspired by Israeli policies.
As a founding member of the EU, the result of the general elections in the Netherlands may have a snowball effect on subsequent 2017 elections in other EU-member countries, such as France, Germany and Italy. A potential win for PVV may energise the worldwide nationalistic trend fueled by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United State. In his own words, Mr. Wilders stated he is “part of a growing worldwide movement”. Meanwhile, a VVD success may restore the confidence in the EU and enhance the political stability on the continent.
How may the Dutch election influence the country’s future?