Elections in Holland: what the papers say

Dutch News reports that the ruling coalition in the Netherlands will be faced with the difficult task of putting together a new alliance to ensure controversial legislation gets passed in the senate following Wednesday’s provincial elections. With over 97% of the votes counted, the VVD and Labour are on course to win just 21 seats in the senate in May. The addition of the three friendly opposition parties – the D66 Liberals and small religious parties SGP and CU – is likely to take the total to 36 – two seats short of an overall majority.

Both D66 and the Christian Democrats, who came third and second in the vote, made it clear on Wednesday night they want to see tax cuts in return for support.

Smaller parties, such as GroenLinks and the pro-animal PvdD also said they will be constructive but not uncritical. Dutch voters elected the members of the 12 provincial councils on Wednesday.

The provincial council members will elect the 75 members of the senate in late May. Splintered The Financieele Dagblad says Dutch politics have become so splintered the country needs to reform its political system to remain governable. The biggest loser of the night was the ruling Labour party. The social democrats are likely to have just eight seats in the senate from May, a loss of six. ‘Our battle continues,’ a defiant Labour leader Diederik Samsom told supporters in Amsterdam. ‘We lost but we have not been beaten.’

Coalition The VVD remains the biggest party, but is on target to drop three senate seats. Despite the coalition losses, prime minister Mark Rutte said he would not change tack. ‘90% of VVD voters want this coalition to continue and that is what we are going to do,’ he said. Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV failed to capitalise on the rise of radical Islam and lost support for the fourth election in a row. The PVV will have nine seats in the new look senate, a loss of one, having captured around 11% of the vote.

The PVV did, however, retain a narrow lead over D66 as the biggest party in Rotterdam and in Almere. D66 was the biggest party in Amsterdam and tied with the VVD in The Hague. Provinces In terms of the provinces, the Socialists are likely to be the biggest in Groningen province, where gas extraction has proved a hot political potato. The CDA are the biggest party in Friesland, Zeeland and Flevoland and may also take Limburg, where the PVV was the biggest four years ago. The VVD dominate in Drenthe, Noord-Brabant, Gelderland and Flevoland. Noord and Zuid-Holland may also have the VVD as the biggest party. D66 will take the helm in Utrecht.

Dutch News reports that a glum-looking Diederik Samsom dominates the Telegraaf and Trouw, the day after the provincial elections, while the AD goes for CDA leader Sybrand Buma celebrating with his supporters.

All the papers emphasise the problems the fall in support for the coalition will have for the government and the difficulties it will face in finding new partners in the upper house of parliament. ‘The game of happy families can now begin,’ is the headline on NRC.next. ‘The Dutch political landscape has been chopped into pieces.’ ‘Whoever gets to power in the national elections in the coming years, until 2020 it will take the support of at least four parties to achieve a majority,’ the paper states.

Elsevier’s Eric Vrijsen writes that prime minister Mark Rutte’s intention of turning the provincial elections into a referendum have ‘backfired’. ‘The cabinet has taken a significant hit. Rutte can’t simply ignore this outcome.’ Vrijsen doesn’t think the cabinet will fall but the fact that it now has to look for a fourth party for support in the senate will cause it ‘to limp towards the end.’ Vrijsen is unusually complimentary about Diederik Samsom who has been ‘gracious in defeat’, while Geert Wilders’ claim that the loss of a seat for his anti-Islam party was down to a low turnout is ‘a lame excuse.’

Reforms The Financieele Dagblad says Dutch politics have become so splintered the country needs to reform its political system to remain governable. Finding a majority for his political reforms in the senate has given Rutte the idea this is the way to go for the foreseeable future, but ‘a system with two chambers which have roughly the same powers, use this power in the same way and whose compositions are completely different is not a basis for good governance.’

The Volkskrant writes that GroenLinks and the CDA now hold the key to a majority for the cabinet and an accord on the proposed changes to the Dutch tax system. Neither party is giving anything away, however, with Buma stating he ‘will not get into the same boat’. ‘It wouldn’t be healthy. A cabinet needs to be subjected to scrutiny by an independent opposition,’ the paper quotes him as saying.

Biggest loser The Telegraaf homes in on the Labour loss: ‘Red card for Samsom’ is its headline. ‘In spite of a disastrous VVD campaign, coalition partner Labour has turned out to be the biggest loser,’ the paper writes.

Trouw thinks that ‘voters resent the policy makers in the cabinet more than the parties who supported them.’ Labour losses in the northern provinces have been especially dramatic – in Groningen the party was halved – and local Labour party members are saying trust in the governing parties is at an all-time low. This is because of the handling of the problems Groningen is experiencing as a result of gas extraction, the paper states. The cabinet, Trouw says, has been punished, but the opposition parties which have supported its polices have been rewarded.

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